The Nawab of schools

Nawab Ali with students of Danishnagar High School. Photo: Prothom AloIt was back in 1968. Nawab Ali was shocked when his mother Khadeja Begum told him that when people in their village were afflicted with cholera and smallpox, the others fled in fear, rather than staying back to help them. It was just a matter of ignorance.Khadeja Begum and her son Nawab Ali tended to the villagers with food and medicine. They also asked others to help the ailing villagers instead of fleeing. But they were mocked.Khadeja said to her son, “Only education can dispel this ignorance.”Nawab pondered on this for long. Then one day he decided to set up schools so the local children could study grow up as educated persons with sound principles.Nawab Ali is from the village Hajipur in Chaitrakol of Pirganj upazila, Rangpur. He has established four schools and a madrasa in the area and helped directly in establishing three more educational institutions. He has donated land for these institutions, and helped students. He has deliberately avoided giving jobs to any of his relations in these institutions. Local people know him to be an ‘education-crazy’ man.Nawab Ali struggled to studyThe 82-year-old Nawab Ali’s village is some 30 kms away from Pirganj. He uses a walking stick and sleeps in a mud house, though he has a brick one. Despite his old age, he visits at least one educational institution every day.On 7 September, two correspondents of Prothom Alo went to Hajipur village to talk to him. Nawab Ali informed them he had to stop his studies twice since there were no schools within three to four miles in those days. There were only jungles all around. “We had to walk on foot to go anywhere.”“I studied up to class V at Bhendabari Government Primary School. The school was five miles away. Later, I passed my matriculation exam in 1954 from Balua High School in the neighbouring Mithapukur upazila.”Establishing schoolsNawab Ali, along with the villagers, founded a primary school in 1974. He donated 33 decimals of land to the school.“Teachers started working hard for the school. Villagers also helped me construct the school building. The education officer also helped us. Students got books and a brick building. We named it Hajipur Government Primary School.”Assistant teacher of the school Amjad said, “Nawab Ali is a unique person. Even at this age, he inspects our activities twice a week. His enthusiasm for education revitalizes us. He hasn’t even taken paan to appoint me.”Danishnagar High School was founded in 1994. Nawab Ali donated Tk 50,000 by selling 20 decimals of his land and gave 1.50 acres of land for the school.Teachers of Danishnagar High School said that due lack of funds they could not hire a cleaner for the school before it was included in the MPO (Monthly Pay Order) list of the government. Nawab Ali himself took the responsibility.Head teacher of the high school, Moksedur Rahman, said, “Nawab Ali has been the president of the school committee for the last 22 years. The guardians always elect him.”The people of Shalti village, some three kilometers from Hajipur, were not being able to set up a school for the lack of land. It was Nawab Ali, who donated 51 decimals land adjacent to the road. Following his example, other villagers donated corrugated iron sheets, bamboo, wood and money. The school was established in 1995 and named Shalti Shamsdighi High School.First president of the managing committee of the school, Afsar Ali, said, “I couldn’t imagine Nawab Ali would donate his land for the school. He asked me to be the president of the school committee. Such sacrifice is rare among the people of this level of our society in these days.”Besides, he founded Danishnagar Primary School in 1992 and Hajipur Dakhil Madarasa in 1998. He donated money and land for these two institutions and encouraged local people to give donations. He also contributed directly for the establishment of Pirerhat Rahman Fajil Madarasa, Anantarampur Girls High School and Jharbishla Hayatul Ulum Alim Madrasa, informed the teachers.Children’s HavenPirerhat Rahman Fajil Madarasa governing body president and former chairman of Chaitrakol union parishad, Deldar Hossain, said to Prothom Alo that Nawab Ali not only has founded the educational institutions, he built roads for the students also.A class IX student of Hajipur Dakhil Madrasa, Asia Khatun, said, “Nawab Dadu (grandfather) has given me this school bag. He also has organised free private tuition for me.”Danishnagar Government Primary School’s head teacher, Abdul Matin said, “Nawab Ali chacha (uncle) is a haven for children. He comes to school, talks to them, buys books and notebooks for them. Sometimes he cleans the classrooms in himself.”Students said their Nawab Ali Dadu goes to their houses if they skip school for one day.Benevolent and modest Nawab AliNawab Ali’s son Manzurul Haq said people of the area elected his father six times as their representative as he remains busy for others and with educational institutions.However, Nawab Ali, who inherited 33 acres of land, said he could not do much for people. “I would have tried more to do something if I were a bit healthier.”Chaitrakol UP member, Mofazzal Hossain, said they are proud of Nawab Ali.Upazila teachers’ association president Anwarul Islam said a person like Nawab Ali is rare in the society.*This piece, originally published in the Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza