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'Indians give such little importance to education'

Last updated on: January 5, 2011 09:39 IST

'Indians give such little importance to education'

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Lajwanti DSouza

Meet Pooja Mishra, married, mother of one and founder of a school in her town tells us why she is pursuing her MBA in an IIM

For those MBA aspirants who are socially inclined, building a school or a college in a small town is possibly 'the' goal to attain. So why on earth is Pooja Mishra, who has already built a college and a school in Rae Bareilly, pursuing an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (IIMC)?

"The answer is simple," says Pooja (30). "I want to run the school with better business skills. Education is not about putting up a building and starting classes. One has to run it systematically," she says.

Pooja started the Gurukul Mahavidyalaya and Gurukul Public School in 2008 along with her husband Shashank Shukla, also 30.

The school caters to the students of VI to VIII standard and the college churns out Arts graduates.

Two years of running, and the college already boasts of 224 students and the school has around 40 students. The fees charged are as per Government regulations, between Rs 2,200 to Rs 6,000 per annum for the school and Rs 3,400 per annum for the college, informs Pooja.

Last year, the school had a passing percentage of 99 per cent. "That is very good given the circumstances and the opportunities that students get," she says.

Spread over a total area of five acres, there are two separate building for the school and the college.

The land is actually ancestral which the family gladly gave away for the purpose of the school.

According to Pooja, the principal of the school is able to get work done from the students and the staff. She along with 18 other staff members are able to pull the school through quite admirably. For all operational purposes, Pooja's father takes care of the day-to-day work.

"It makes me real happy to see the students doing well. It's a different kind of satisfaction," the pretty MBA student says.


Image: Pooja Mishra

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'One has to empower children'

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Women power

Majority of the students in both the school and college are girls but that was precisely Pooja's idea. "The idea of girl education in Rae Bareilly is not well received. Not many educate their girls and those who do undergo hardships as the girls have to travel up to 25 kilometres to reach their school or college," says Pooja.

In the first year of operation, the response was quite average. Not too many in Purasi village, where the school and college are located warmed up to the idea.

That's when Pooja, her husband and her family did extensive road marketing and went to people's homes to encourage them to get their children, especially daughters educated. "Thankfully, the following year the response improved," said Pooja.

The MBA undergrad chose Rae Bareilly because her father hails from the place and also because it was a in an urgent need of education for the girl children.

Pooja got married in 2006 and went to the US along with her husband. There she worked for Infosys and lived in the US for about four years.

It was then, that Pooja realised that education in the US was a mandatory part of children's lives and that there was no differentiation made when it came to educating daughters.

"When I compared our education system to that of the US, I realised that we give such little importance to education in India, especially women's education. That was when I decided to build the school and college. One has to empower children," Pooja added.

In 2011, Pooja and Shashank plan to start a nursery right up to class V and also class IX and X. The additional classes will be set up in the same campus. Getting permission for the new classes, Pooja anticipates, will be as tiresome as getting the earlier permissions.

"It's not so difficult to get things done around here if the papers are in order but the paper work needed is so much that it's a lot of work at the end," she adds.

Pooja and her family put in the initial investment for the school as it was not easy getting the funds. "Banks don't lend money that easily. It was tough to convince but it happened eventually," she said.


Image: A class in progress at Gurukul Mahavidyalaya

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'A degree from IIMC will do me much more good'

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Why MBA

"Because the degree will help me run the school in a better fashion. It is necessary to have business skills to run a school properly. And definitely a degree from IIMC will do me much more good," she says, adding that even institutions like banks will take her more seriously if she has an MBA to back her up.

"I need to run the school and it would be much better with the knowledge on how to do it," she states.

Pooja has been lucky to have her husband as a support over the years. Now she also has a four-year-old son to look after. Pooja admits that they both are her support system. "I would not have done anything had my husband not supported my decision. He has been my constant guide. Also my father and my family have been with me since when the idea first came to my mind."

Pooja's husband is with the Teach for India foundation.

With her husband's help, Pooja plans to encompass many more boundaries. She wants to open many more schools and spread literacy in her own small way. For the time being however, Pooja is happy being a part student, part mother, part wife and a part entrepreneur. In company of peers who are in total admiration for her and who want to support her in the cause, it won't be long before Pooja will write her name in the annals of history and will be blessed by numerous women who will have probably got themselves educated because of her.


Image: Pooja, Shashank and their son laying the foundation stone for the school building

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