A new age school for the poor

Mamoon Akhtar of Samaritan Help Mission School

Education is one of the modern world’s most important priorities because it has the power to liberate the intellect, unlock the imagination and is fundamental for self-respect. Human capital is a key driver of sustainable and inclusive economic growth and is often the only capital the poor have. By tapping it, society can improve productivity, and usher in prosperity and end poverty.

While government schools are the mainstay of school education for the poor, some exceptional private schools run by noble-minded champions are making it possible for the poor to on-board the new age educational revolution in which modern techniques and stimulating ambience are enhancing the learning experience. We do have a huge network of public schools, but government aid is badly administered making these schools shadows of their private counterparts. Fortunately, several passionate and visionary educationists are nurturing a network of private schools that are promoting inclusive and equitable quality education.

Tikiapara, a sprawling slum in Howrah, is a keen participant in a quiet revolution led by Mamoon Akhtar, now 49, that is transforming the lives of its residents, especially children. Mamoon was forced to drop out of middle school because his school in the slum had a roll of 3,000 students, most of them children of poor and unlettered parents.

Mamoon’s father was keen that his son got a good education. He put him in one of the area’s leading schools. After his father’s death, Mamoon was forced to drop out and take up a librarian’s job in a private school. Life would have gone on as usual but for his constant unease at being forced out of education.

Two incidents shaped Mamoon’s vision. One day, he found a man beating a woman because she refused to be a drug pusher. Mamoon intervened and got beaten up himself. The little boy, whose mother Mamoon wanted to save, later beseeched him, “Sir, I want to study.” He called the child to his home, and soon he was running evening classes for 20 children. Mamoon went around the community seeking help and enlisted the services of some girls as teachers at Rs 100 per month. Thus began Mamoon’s lifetime romance with education.

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Moin Qazi
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Moin Qazi

Moin Qazi holds PhDs in Development Economics and English. He worked for three decades at State Bank of India in various developmental roles. He served as Chancellor’s nominee in Nagpur University and as a Member of National Committee on Financial Inclusion at NITI Aayog. He is the recipient of the UNESCO World Politics Essay Gold Medal, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Gold Medal from Dalit Sahitya Academy and Rotary International’s Vocational Excellence Award.