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Published in the 16-31 Oct 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition


Flag bearers of education 

It is generally believed that when two educated girls meet, they talk about fashion and films. Irfana Ismail Mujavir and Ghazala Abdul Ghaffar Mughal are, however, different in the sense that the topics of their discussion are higher than run-of-the-mill type. They think and talk about helping poor children and women living in slums through education. 

Irfana and Ghazala were unknown to each other a few years back. In 1987 Ghazala started teaching in an English medium school in Jogeshwari, Mumbai and soon she was promoted as principal of the school because of her good performance. After sometime Irfana was also appointed as a teacher in the same school. Since the school is located near a slum colony, they had an opportunity to closely observe the life of poverty-stricken people of the colony and lack of education among children. They decided to use education to solve the problems of poverty and ignorance. Realising that while being in service they would not be able to devote full attention to the education of the colony’s children, they resigned from their jobs. 

They hired a room in another locality and set up a new English medium school and named it Young Indians School. Initially they had to struggle a lot, but finally they purchased a plot for Rs 6 lakh, says Ghazala. She spent all her savings she had made from her teaching job and private tuitions to purchase the plot. Irfana spent all the money her parents had set apart for her marriage. Her parents wanted to get her married at the earliest, but somehow she persuaded her parents to spend the money on the purchase of the land for the school. Besides, Ghazala and Irfana managed to get a loan of Rs 3 lakh.

People appreciated their efforts. In reply to a question as to what motivated them for setting up the school, Ghazala says that her only wish is that poor and deprived children should progress and built a happy future. She lived in a locality where all her neibhours are non-Muslims. When riots broke out in 1993 in Mumbai, they temporarily shifted to a Muslim locality. Her family had full faith in their neighbours so they locked the house and handed over the keys to them. Later on they came to know that their entire belongings were looted and destroyed. She was disappointed but the good sense prevailed. She felt that instead of harbouring hatred, it was better to promote secularism and for this purpose education was the most effective tool, adds Ghazala.

Their efforts have borne fruit. Today Young Indians School is spreading the beacon of light under the patronage of Al Noor Charitable Trust in Jogeshwari, Hari Nagar. Though it is an English medium school, Urdu and Theology are compulsorily taught in order to familiarise the children with their culture and values. Most of the children belong to poor families. The expenses of poor children are met by the trust. They have given employment to women also since they want to help and upgrade their position.

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