From being unable to pay the school fees for his exam and leaving the school to giving tuition in his locality to teaching slum kids in a 300 sqft. room, Mamoon Akhtar and his journey of opening Samaritan Mission School in West Bengal for the underprivileged children of Howrah is an inspiring story to know.
“I knew my father was helpless. When I was told that I couldn’t sit for the exam because I hadn’t paid the school fees, I could feel he was in equal pain. So, I never blamed him for that and started taking tuition to help my family”, said Mamoon Akhtar, who couldn’t sit for his grade 7 final exam and had to leave his school due to his poor financial condition. But his passion for learning and studying more urged him to take tuition, so he started teaching the kids around.
With the help of this money, he continued his education and finished class 12th. ” It was a usual day when I was on the way for the tuition and saw people gathered. When I went closer, I saw a man beating a woman badly for not selling drugs in her locality. Her son then appeared and asked me to help him. Somehow, I saved the woman and asked why the kid was roaming free and not in school. To which he said he wanted to study but wasn’t able to due to financial conditions, so I asked him to come to my place the next day”, added Mr.Akhtar.
From teaching in a 300 sq ft. room to running four schools!
Mamoon Akhtar wasn’t expecting the kid to actually come to his house, but to his surprise, he did. He taught the kid a few basic concepts and gave him homework, thinking he won’t return. But the next day, he appeared with another boy. “On the third day, there more three more boys, and they all wanted to study. This hit me, and I decided to teach them for free. In 2001, I started a school in a 300sq meter room with six kids. Initially, the kids used to give monthly fees of Rs.5. But those who couldn’t afford even that were allowed to sit for free. I purchased mats, a blackboard, chalk, and other important stuff and converted it into a classroom”, he stated.
In 2003, Mamoon wrote a letter to the then United States Consulate’s wife after knowing they were offering help to organizations in the city. This worked, and Mamoon received a donation of Rs.10,000 from them. “She also brought a journalist who then wrote an article about our school in one of the leading English newspapers. It was published and then was read by a gentleman who donated Rs.11,000”, said Mamoon.
After this, there was no going back, and people kept donating to his school. In 2008 with the help of the Howrah Police and the local community, Mamoon got a two-acre land that belonged to the Belilious Trust Estate but was overrun by the local drug mafia. “Today, that land has a sports ground, a hospital, two schools, a vocational training center where we have 400-500 women working for it. These women are earning a livelihood with that by learning new skills. The area has also changed drastically. The crime rate has decreased; a separate case study by the Howrah Police Department stated how our institution has changed thousands of lives”, mentioned Mamoon Akhtar. After this, there was no going back, and people kept donating to his school.
Also Read: Meet professor Dr.Lalita Sharma, who has tutored over 5,000 slum kids in public gardens for over a decade!
Aiming to educate 10,000 underprivileged children and build a nation with values
With a staff of over 200 teaching professionals, Mamoon Akhtar wishes nothing but to revive the forgotten values that he thinks we seem to have forgotten. “Many people might find it backward, but I believe respecting your teacher and parents and being a good citizen is important. I teach moral science to my kids and tell them stories of Prophet Mohammad, Lord Rama, Aristotle, Alexander, and more. I tell my team that they are building a nation, so compassion is needed. Communication is the key, and I also feel we should give space to everybody”, he added.
Mamoon Akhtar now plans to re-open all the schools that have been shut down. He is building another school in the city that will be able to teach 10,000 students. “We have already revived one school, and that is our model. I want to establish more schools with nursery, primary and higher education. Currently, we have integrated teaching programs. We are training kids for JEE, CA, CE, and such degree courses”, he said.
An example of Unity!
Recently, the United Kingdom-based research organization recognized Mamoon Akhtar’s Samaritan Mission School among the world’s top 10 inspirational schools. The classrooms are spacious and facilitate digital learning, too. Sir Mamoon’s school is no less than an international school when it comes to the quality of teaching and learning experience. It also doesn’t differentiate students on their cast, creed, and religion. Every underprivileged child is welcomed in classrooms.
“The current fee is Rs.200, and if someone can’t afford that, they can pay whatever they can afford, or we don’t take anything. This school was started by a Muslim; the first generation came from the Jews, while 60-70% of the support comes from the Hindus, and most students are Muslims. For me, humanity is the biggest religion, and I believe that Allah created us to help each other, and that’s what I m doing”, he concluded.
Besides four schools, a vocational training center, and a hospital, Mamoon Akhtar’s non-profit organization Samaritan Help Mission also helps the older people in the city. It has been taking care of over 1200 elders, their health, ration, and stay under its Adopt A Family. The school currently has 6,500 students.