Howrah School aims to revive long-closed schools to provide education to poor children

Samaritan Mission School, which was recently listed as one of the top 10 schools in the world “for overcoming adversity” by the British organization T4 Education, has taken on the task of reviving the former schools since closed in the area of Howrah Municipal Corporation in an attempt to provide easy access to education to those belonging to marginal sections.

said Mamoon Akhtar, 50, founder of the Howrah-based school The Indian Express who has written to the police station of the Urban Guard and the Municipal Corporation in this regard.

“We want to revive all the closed schools in Howrah. We have identified 7-8 such schools. If we get the permission, we will start working in collaboration with the administration. We will ensure that the children studying there have a better platform,” Akhtar said.

In June, T4 Education, a research-based organization, awarded the World’s Best School Awards to Samaritan Mission School for meeting the criteria of “making a real difference in their community, sharing best practice and making the their voices at the top table to help transform education”.

Akhtar, who dropped out of school after his father failed to pay tuition fees, had started the school in 2001 with just six students in a 600-square-foot room in a slum in the Tikiapara area from Howrah. “I was in class VII when I dropped out of school. I started a small initiative in 2001 with only 6 children whose parents were rickshaw pullers and day labourers. In 2007 we started a formal school for these children so that they would not drop out of school like I did. Initially, the school fee was Rs 5 per month. Now, it is 200 rupees. In addition, children receive free books and uniforms. The aim is to ensure that no child drops out of education because of money,” Akhtar said.

The school has grown into an English medium secondary institution with over 3,500 students and about 200 teachers. “We also have three other campuses, including one in Bankra. Together, we have over 6,500 students, including 3,500 at the Tikiapara campus. The foundations of this school were laid on a 150-year-old school that was closed for a long time. It was started by Isaac Raphael Belilious, a Jewish merchant from British India. The school was named after him and next door to the school was the Rebecca Belilious Charitable Dispensary named after his wife. In 2014, the Belilious Trust Estate, which ran the two institutes, the Howrah City Police and the Samaritan Help Mission (NGO) collaborated to revive the school as the Samaritan Mission School,” said Akhtar.

The school, which is affiliated to the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE) and the West Bengal Board of Higher Secondary Education (WBCHSE), admits only disadvantaged students from marginalized backgrounds.

“Most of our students’ parents are labourers, rickshaw pullers or do odd jobs. My purpose is to provide them with high quality English education from Kindergarten to Class XII. In this area, 80 percent of the population is Muslim, but children of all castes and creeds study here. We celebrate all religious festivals and instill national integration and communal harmony among them,” Akhtar said.

The classrooms of the six-storey school are equipped with smart classroom features and the campus has a football pitch and basketball and badminton courts.

Afsana Begum (17), a class XII science student, said, “The kind of exposure and opportunity we have here is commendable. The faculty members are extremely supportive, understanding and encouraging. During the lockdown, there is no there should be no change in terms of attention and support from our teachers.”

Afasna, whose father bets daily and whose mother is a housewife, aspires to be a doctor.

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Mohammad Al-Hussain Ansari (17), a class XI science student, said, “The school also helps us prepare for JEE and NEET at low cost. This is very helpful for those who want prepare for exams and pursue higher studies”.

Rafiya Ali (26), a political science teacher, said the school provides a good platform to its students in terms of quality education and technology support. “We teach with smart boards and also with chalk and pen. We also have projectors that make classes very interesting for students,” said Ali.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had congratulated the school authorities for the achievement.

“Delighted to know and share that Samaritan Mission School of Howrah is among the top ten inspirational schools in the world. They have achieved it under the category of overcoming adversity, selected for the world’s best school awards, by the organization of UK-based T4 Education research in collaboration with some internationally recognized bodies. Congratulations and best wishes,” he had said in a tweet.

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