This MBA graduate chose to teach underprivileged children in Jharkhand over a plush corporate career
Every social initiative has a story behind it. So does H.H. High School (HHHS). It was founded on January 2010 in Brambe, a small village 20 kms from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand.
Shadab Hassan, the Founder Director of the school is an alumnus of BIT Mesra who gave up lucrative job offers in the corporate world to start a school in the village where his father spent his childhood days.
Shadab’s father had to struggle a lot in the early years of his life to get to a position where he is today. Due to severe financial crisis in the family, it was difficult for him to pursue his education. But he did not give up. He sold balloons and candies while he was a child to generate money for school fees.
Inspired by his father’s struggle for education, Shadab was determined to open a school in Brambe so that the underprivileged and disadvantaged kids of the village did not have to face the same.
A tough start
Knowing how difficult it was for parents to find a decent school in Brambe, Shadab, along with his mother Roshan Ara and father, brought together a bunch of around 80 kids and started teaching them. But getting these 80 kids wasn’t easy. They went around the nearby villages, knocking each door and finding out the number of children in each household, how many kids went to school, and if not why.
This is where the ‘REACH2teach’ campaign came into effect where people in the village and its surrounding areas were made to understand the importance of education and how it would help them craft a better future for their children in the coming years.
Crossing various hurdles like poverty, part-time or full time jobs that these children were already bound to, they started attending school after the school authorities assured their parents and guardians that they could continue with their jobs.
Realizing the laidback attitude and hard-to-change mindset of the rural parents, the team decided to take the campaign to yet another level. This time the school director, Shadab, along with some active volunteers (students from local universities) went around the villages with admission forms and started enrolling kids then and there. This campaign became quite successful and many parents agreed to send their children to school because of on-the-spot registration taking place in the village itself.
“Now that the kids started coming to school, the authorities made use of whatever amenities they could arrange for and created a makeshift classroom for the kids in a semi-constructed building in the residential premises of the school,” says Shadab.
Benches, chairs and tables were absolutely unheard of and the only place to sit, write and read were the huge carpets that were hired by the school at Rs 20 per day along with a rolling blackboard which allowed the teacher to teach the children and conduct the classes. “At this juncture, no teacher was appointed from outside. I took charge along with some volunteers who were either friends or students from local universities,” he adds.
Around 30% of the children in the school were either orphans or had a single parent who often approached the school authorities requesting them to waive their fees.
“We started offering absolutely free of cost education for such children along with orphaned kids who were staying with a relative or guardian. The school also provided books, stationary items, school uniform, shoes and socks for such children so that they could concentrate on their studies without having to worry about the fees,” points out Shahdab.
The only way to sustain the school was to increase the number of students in the school. A number of initiatives and campaigns began which attracted many students from Brambe.
To bring children from nearby villages, the school organized for a van which saved their families the cost o commuting.
LIVE classroom: a unique experience for students
This problem led to a wonderful breakthrough in the school’s method of teaching where the managing committee of the school came up with the idea of conducting LIVE classrooms. The concept of organizing video conferencing in a regular classroom was introduced in the school which opened doors for people around the world who wish to teach underprivileged children but were unable to do so till now.
Apart from providing quality education to the kids of Brambe, H. H. High School also developed partnerships with people in the local community for delivering value to the students and eventually the community at large.
Instead of hiring professionals for basic jobs such as stitching of uniforms, HHHS believes in helping the local people by getting the student’s uniforms stitched from them. It not only gives rise to employment in the village and a positive attitude towards the school, but also helps the children and the school save a lot of money.
One out of three will study for free
“India being a densely populated country, it is quite common to find more than three to four children in a family. Typically, only one or two get an education, the rest are sent to work to bring in extra income,” says Shahdab.
HHHS came up with the idea of offering free education for one out of three siblings of a family as this would ease the parent’s burden of having to pay for the education of all their children. This also encourages more and more children to continue their education without any worries.
Change without changing
Another problem faced by parents is the fact that books and supplies add to the cost of education.“Keeping this in mind, we came up with the concept of allowing children to reuse textbooks so that they not only save money but also develop a sense of responsibility when they use their books with care,” adds Shahdab.
Maatri – an initiative to teach mothers
The school also initiated a programme called ‘Maatri’ which aims at women empowerment in various ways. One of the main aims of this initiative is to educate the mothers of the students by setting up special classes for women every Sunday in the village itself. Along with basic education, they also create awareness about health and sanitation, and teach them how to practice safe child rearing practices.
Google joins the journey
Google has came forward and made use of the already existing LIVE Classroom setup. It has became common for Google employees to take out time from their busy schedule during the day and teach various subjects like English, Mathematics, Science and IT to the students and give them an out-of-classroom experience like never before.
“They also discuss their own job profiles, difficulties and achievements and try to inspire the kids to continue their education and to achieve their goals in life. In recognition of the wonderful efforts put in by the school, Google gifted a 32’’ LCD so that the children could have a rewarding experience through these video classes,” says Shahdab.
“What could be more rewarding and prestigious for a founder of a school than to be acknowledged by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and also receive the Yuva Prabodhan-2012 award,” says Shahdab.
At present, H.H. High School has 525 students out which around 80 orphans or single parent children are studying free of cost. Their entire education is sponsored by individuals and organizations who donate money through Bless a Child initiative.
In its four years of existence, the school has been able to construct 17 classrooms, provide equipments and facilities for sports like badminton, football, volleyball, cricket, table tennis, and carom board etc. It has appointed 14 full time teachers who are paid monthly salaries for their service.