Gulf migration took toll on children's education in Azamgarh
For 25 years, Mohammad Ikram worked day and night
in Saudi Arabia to fund the education of his four sons back home
here, waiting for the day they would be able to stand on their
own feet. But they dropped out of school and ruined »
Azamgarh (Uttar Pradesh): A single bamboo stick holds the thatched roof together, the
discoloured floor serves as both bench and chair, the kids sit in
neat rows and a man sits on a printed mattress. It is from humble
rooms like this that a quiet education revolution is unravelling
in this eastern Uttar Pradesh district that was associated in
public memory not long ago for alleged involvement of some of its
youth in extremist activities.
Tanzeem Al-Farooq, an NGO formed in 1987 with just Rs.10 as
initial capital by some youngsters, has set up at least 300 such
primary schools in villages in Azamgarh, about 220 km from the
state capital Lucknow, and nearby areas that have a substantial
number of Muslims.
The founding members, who were then working in the Gulf region,
have managed to educate over 50,000 kids who would have otherwise
forever remained illiterate. Some of these members came back to
India while some pledged their support sitting abroad.
One of the founders of Tanzeem Al-Farooq, Asrar Ahmed, embarked on
the idea of identifying micro-rural, small and unknown villages of
the district that don't have schools or any other arrangement for
primary education. These villages sometimes have as few as 15
The modus operandi is something like this: the NGO identifies a
village, convinces the locals for the need of an educational
institute, builds a school and then hands it over to a village
Only those villages where government-run schools are rare and
people hesitate to send their children to schools due to lack of
quality and different medium of instructions are chosen.
"It was hard to manage it all, especially in the beginning,"
Tanzeem Al-Farooq president Maulana Obaidullah told IANS.
"We start schools with our own expenses but try to educate and
spread awareness among locals to take the responsibility further.
We have established 300 such schools," he added.
Though the project started with just Rs.10 investment, close to
Rs.1 million is collected through public donations every year.
Sixty-year-old Islam Ahmed, a Class 4 pass-out and one of the
founder members of the organisation, thinks it was the need of the
"It is not mere building schools, it is an educational movement.
Our aim is to motivate the villagers to teach their children and
build schools to preserve their historical inheritance," Ahmad
Mohammed Sadique, a teacher in such a school in Azamgarh's Aamgaon
village, said: "It is hard to be here and survive on a small
salary, but I am happy to teach these children."
Sitting in an open one-room hut of a school on a chilly, foggy
morning while wearing a white kurta and lungi with skull cap,
Sadique teaches the Quran, Urdu, Hindi, Mathematics and basic
English to 30 students -- half of them girls.
"If I am not here, then who will teach them? I have been here for
three years. Earlier, only 10 percent of the kids in the village
would study as the government school was two km away. Now, 50
percent of the village children study," said Sadique, who hails
from Bihar's Araria district.
The chief motive of the NGO is to provide quality education in
"We have lit a small lamp of knowledge and hope for a bright
future," said Obaidullah, who thinks there's a need for
collaboration among primary schools to design a joint mechanism to
fight illiteracy and ignorance.
Mohammed Rashid, a farmer and resident of Aamgaon village, sends
his two children to the shack school.
"I am an illiterate man, can't even write my name. I was worried
about the future of my children. I thought they would have to
follow my footsteps. But thanks to god, the situation has
changed," he says with a smile.
Efforts like these in a place like Azamgarh make a difference in a
state where the literacy rate is 69.72 percent as compared to the
national average of 74.04 percent.
Azamgarh was in the news some years ago for the wrong reasons as
police claimed that diaffected Muslim youth from this distrcit
were associated with militant grups and a large number of Azamgarh
Muslim were arrested for suspected association with serial
bombings in many cities in India. Because of the association,
Muslims from Azamgarh, who tried to find rental houses and
apartments in other cities in India, found it very difficult do
so. But things are now changing for the better.
(Abu Zafar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)