Written by Abner Manzar
“Those who don’t have education behind them don’t have anything” said Mushtaq Hussain, a resident of Tinda Mohalla, Dal Lake. Dal Lake has several small islands that are home to nearly 100,000 people; Tinda Mohalla is one such habitation with about 60 households and a population of approximately 400 to 500 people. Mushtaq runs a learning centre that he established in 2020 to provide access to education to students whose schools were shut because of the pandemic.
“I have not received any education but this fact has taught me the value of education. I don’t want the people of my village to have the same fate as the previous generation” said Mushtaq. He takes his Shikara out everyday with all the ingredients for Kahwa (a Kashmiri hot beverage) and serves the tourists exploring Dal Lake in Shikaras. “I don’t have a lot of funds to run this school because I charge a very minimal fee. I believe if I don’t take some fee from the students, they will not give any value to this education and school. So I charge them something they can afford. In that way they are more interested and put in more effort” he said. With limited funds to run the school, he uses the money he earns by selling Kahwa to run the school.
“English, Urdu, Maths, Science, History, Geography everything” he said when I asked him what subjects are taught here. However, these subjects are taught only by three teachers. Even though this school is not yet affiliated with any board, he has started the process for it and he strongly believes that the quality of education provided here is much better than government schools. In fact all his three children also study in this school itself. I asked him what makes his school better than government schools and he said that his eldest son has progressed much faster since he left the government school. In fact he is far ahead of his classmates in the government school. “The government school is for degrees, this school is actually for education.”
The reason we were visiting his school was to explore the possibility of setting up a computer lab in the school so we asked him why it would be beneficial for this school. He said “whenever you go to any place for a job interview, they ask you to drop the pen and show digital skills. Without computer knowledge the chances of getting employed are much lower.”
Mushtaq had a lot of clarity about the way he wanted to run this school; he didn’t want to get bogged down by lack of funds, this was his passion project and he was seeking support to further the cause. We are now deliberating on how many computers and what kind of curriculum we should provide so that he can start providing digital education. We will also identify one of the teachers and train them in computers so that they can further train the rest of the students.