‘IIf you cannot pay the fee, you cannot sit for the exam.

After hearing these words in seventh grade, Mamoon Akhtar endured the pain of avoidance but decided to do something about it.

The once banished boy used that experience to turn his life around.

Graphics teacher Mamoon Akhtar, founder of the Samaritan Mission School
Founder of the Samaritan Missionary School

Today, the 48-year-old Mamoon is the franchise founder of four schools in West Bengal with over 6,000 students currently enrolled in them. “My school has no place for religion. It seems beyond your faith,” says Mamoun, who named the institution – the Samaritan Mission School.

I grew up early in life

At the Samaritan Mission School, graphics teacher Mamoon Akhtar addresses young students
At school with the students.

Born in Tikiabara, a district in Howrah in West Bengal, Mamoon enjoyed going to school and was a fairly good student as well. Although he dropped out, he didn’t give up, continued studying with the help of a fee teacher and appeared in Class 10 and Class 12 exams as a special candidate.

Today, its English-language schools boast of educating over 6,500 children from nursery school onwards. All this is done by an army of nearly 250 highly dedicated teachers.

After I was asked to leave the school, Mamoun, on the same day, started taking lessons for students from kindergarten to first grade. “I made it my life’s mission to find a way to provide quality English education to students from poor backgrounds. I didn’t want any child to go through the pain I went through.”

I grew up in an area that had a very high crime rate. Drug smuggling and stolen cars and parts were part of that neighborhood. Often women and children also took part in this. Given how poor the literacy rates are, it is not surprising to see people engaging in such activities. It always bothered me,” he says.

One morning in 1999, when Mamoun was walking the streets of Tequiabara, he saw a man beating a woman and many passers-by were watching.

School children raise their hands at Samaritan Mission School
Happy semester.

When Mamoon intervened and tried to help the woman, the man told him to stay away and mind his own business. “However, I saved that woman who later told me that the man forced her into drug dealing. In that fight, I was also hurt. A little boy who turned out to be the son of the woman I saved told me later that he wanted to study but didn’t have the means. At that moment, I told him He came to my house the next day and I assured him that I would support him if he wanted to study.

He continues: “The next morning, the little boy appeared on my doorstep immediately wanting to study. I handed him a book and began to teach him. He came back the next day, this time with three others. And on the third day he brought two more boys with him. This was how it began It has my journey as an upbringing.”

In 2001, with six boys who wanted to study, Mamoun took a small 300-square-foot space next to his home in Tikiabara. At that time, he was charging 5 rupees per child just to make sure that the children and their parents value the education they receive.

Being the change he wants

Girls from the Tikiabara region studying at the Samaritan Mission School
girls at school

A rickety roof that often leaked when it rained and an open drain nearby that doubled as a toilet for children to use — that’s how Mamoun started. Focus on imparting quality education to children.

Mamoun describes himself as being in the “right place at the right time” every so often in life.

“In another incident that can best be described as accidental, in 2003 I came across a newspaper clipping about the then wife of the US Consulate giving assistance to organizations in the city. I wrote to her and to my utter surprise received 10,000 rupees from me Alison Sibley (wife of the US Consulate), he adds Mamoun This gave him a much needed boost.

This money was used to build a roof and toilets for the children. Besides making a donation, I also helped publish an article in Asian Age titled – “Service is based on need, not faith.” “It suddenly helped spread the message about the work I was doing and Ramesh Kachulia (a well-known philanthropist) based in Mumbai read this article and offered financial assistance.”

In this way, Mamoun was able to repair the doors and windows of the classrooms and also managed to obtain some furniture. The association that started in the early 2000’s has continued till today. Ramesh ji is over 80 years old and still supports this cause. “He is my mentor who supported and guided me like a father does every step of the way,” says Mamoun.

School building, step by step

Samaritan Mission School
Step by Step

With donations received from all over India, Mamoon was able to obtain a larger plot of land where he built the first school. “While earlier children would sit on the floor and study, now we have been able to provide them with suitable desks and chairs. We have introduced uniforms and this made every child feel very special,” he recalls fondly.

By 2008, the school building was constructed and ready. They have started enrolling students in nursery school through the third grade. Every year a new chapter was added. In 2014, Mamoun took another big step to make the school bigger and better. “In Tikiapara, there was a vacant lot that belonged to the Belilious Trust Estate, which was about 150 years old but had been completely overrun by the local goons and drug mafia. With the help of the entire community and the Howrah City Police, we were able to get a two-acre plot for us to use.”

Eight years later, in 2016, the West Bengal State Council recognized the school. Adding another feather in its cap, Samaritan Mission School has been recognized among the top 10 inspiring schools in the world by a UK-based research organization in 2022. In celebration of the achievement, Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, also tweeted her congratulations to Mamoon and the team. .

WB CM's tweet
Mamata Banerjee tweets her appreciation.

Sadaf Parveen from Class 11 at Samaritan Mission School says, “I am thankful to be in a school that is so famous. Besides regular academic learning, I have drank a lot by being here. The school and the teachers focus on a holistic learning experience for every student. In about two years, I will finish from school, and while on the one hand, I cannot wait for it, the thought of leaving this school makes me sad.”

“Teaching has always been my passion, and I am grateful that I was able to pursue that by being part of this institution,” says Rafia Ali, 27, a teacher at the Samaritan Mission School who has been associated with the foundation for more than four years.

“It is not every day that one works with real humanitarian organizations like Mamoun Sidi,” he adds.

Building a community

goodbye party
at the farewell ceremony

The school has become a haven for the children, who often come from broken homes. Some children have their fathers in prison or their mothers involved in drug dealing or other criminal activities. “The one thing all these children had in common was that they wanted to change their future. They wanted to study and make something of their lives. They didn’t want to live the life that their parents provided for them.”

Besides the school, Mamoun also helped build a primary health center and a vocational center, where more than 400 women work. To help women earn a livelihood, we started a vocational training center. Major FMCG brands give us regular orders, which these women fulfill and earn. This has also helped reduce the crime rate and domestic violence incidents within the community,” he says.

Mamoun’s four children – three girls and a boy – also study at the Samaritan Mission School. “My only dream for all children is to be able to educate them all and let them fly high,” he says.

“We all have this one life to live, so why not make it meaningful? Let’s make it our mission to educate our children and not just make them educated.”

To learn more and contribute to this cause, you can click here.

(Edited by Yoshita Rao)


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