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The MBA grad who's changing the lives of the underprivileged

By Jai Vardhan
September 15, 2014 09:33 IST
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Shadab Hassan is an MBA from the Birla Institute of Technology Mesra.

Instead of taking up a plush corporate job in an MNC, he decided to start a school in his hometown in Ranchi where he would teach underprivileged children.

Why would he do that? Find out!

A student from Habib Hassan High School, Brambe, Ranchi writes on a black board

A student from Habib Hassan High School, Brambe, Ranchi writes on a black board.

Every social initiative has a story behind it. So does the Hamid Hassan 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.

Hassan'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.

Shadab Hassan

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.

Realising 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 Hassan, 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 Hassan.

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 per cent 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," Hassan points out.

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.

Students at Habib Hassan High School experience a live classroom

Students at Habib Hassan High School experience a live classroom.

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 organising 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, HH 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.

Free education

"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 Hassan.

The 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.

Students at the Habib Hassan High School in Brambe, Ranchi

Students at Habib Hassan High School celebrate their third anniversary in the school grounds.

Adapt 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 Hassan.

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 set-up.

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 Hassan.

"What could be more rewarding and prestigious for a founder of a school than to be acknowledged by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and also receive the Yuva Prabodhan-2012 award," says the young entrepreneur.

At present, HH High School has 525 students out of which around 80 orphans or single parent children are studying free of cost.

Their entire education is sponsored by individuals and organisations 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.

If Hassan's story doesn't inspire you, we don't know what will!

Photographs Courtesy: H H High School, Brambe's Facebook Page

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