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A 'communal harmony' school in PM's home state: Will Hindu, Muslim fanatics learn?

Philanthropist Dr Abdul Rehman Nakadar with school kids
By Mahesh Trivedi*
There are countless Muslim-owned schools in Gujarat, infamous for the violent Hindu-Muslim clashes in 2002, but those offering higher secondary education are few and far between. But little-known Dr Nakadar Institute of Knowledge (DrNIK) situated in a small village stands out among them not only for its high standard of education but also for promoting communal harmony and many other unique special features.
Its largest leafy campus, record results in crucial examinations year after year, up-to-the-minute facilities for down-at-heel children of unlettered parents living in nearby sleepy hamlets, enviable communal concord and enrolment of the highest number of Hindu students for a minority education institution, etc, all set this distinguished phrontistery apart from other ho-hum, run-of-the-mill schools.
Nestled in serene, sylvan and salubrious surroundings and away from the hustle and bustle of urban life, DrNIK’s 25-acre, biggest-of-its-kind campus in Nandasan village in Kadi taluka of northern Mehsana district boasts of an expansive, out-of-this-world playground for its 1,000-odd bright sparks and a 40,000-square-foot, two-storied, eye-catching school building housing 30 airy classrooms, a 16,000-square-foot multi-purpose hall, a high-tech, well-stocked library, a 16-room hostel, besides new-fangled staff quarters.
“Dr Nakadar’s open-to-all school is a dream come true for poor, illiterate parents living in nearby villages who always wanted their wards to study in a world-class English medium school, and for nominal fees at that. After all, they are cash-starved labourers, farmers, woodcutters, construction workers, blue-collar factory daily-wagers, etc. who have not learnt even the three Rs of education,” says Nandasan’s highly-qualified, young village council chief Saiyad Anish Mirshabmiya, himself an alumnus.
Not long ago, when results of the all-important Class X (SSC) School Board examination were declared, some 300 of the state’s 3,500 high schools registered a spectacular 100 per cent success but DrNIK was the only centre of learning which achieved this distinction for the 11th consecutive year with its quick-learner students passing with flying colours yet again—much to the consternation of its hallowed competitors.
What’s more, Hindus constitute as many as 15 per cent of boys and girls as well as teachers in this kindergarten-to-Class XII school founded in 2004 by United States-based octogenarian philanthropist and famed cardiologist Dr AR Nakadar, while no other small or big minority educational institution in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state can claim to have on its rolls even five per cent students or staff from the majority community.
After the communal riots blotted Gujarat’s copybook in 2002, even crackerjack kids of the minority community still struggle to enroll themselves in Hindu-owned prestigious schools.
But at DrNIK, students of the two communities -- as also teachers -- have learnt to freely mingle with each other, hitting the books together, exchanging notes, sharing lunch boxes, high-fiving the teammates in the boundless recreation ground and lending a helping hand to each other when it comes to organising a science exhibition, an educational trip, a tree plantation campaign or street plays on India’s burning issues, and other cultural activities.
“I or other Hindu teachers never feel out of place in this school because, unlike our counterparts elsewhere, senior Muslim teachers, the principal, the campus director or trustees never call us names but use honorifics like ‘Sir’ and ‘Madam’ as suffixes after our names,” points out Chandrika Joshi, adding that the staff members also visit each other’s homes in good times and bad.
Indeed, the fact that the marathon task of dreaming up and organising the Annual Day function is handed over year after year to a Hindu teacher, highly-qualified Jitendra Parmar, shows that the management cares tuppence for a staffer’s caste or community but values his or her prowess more than anything else.
Says Parmar: “Even at 83, Dr Nakadar is a class act. He is based in the US but never forgets to send greetings to Hindu staffers on their festivals or other auspicious occasions, and this really boosts our spirits. And when he is in India, he makes it a point to meet parents and gives them a patient hearing.”
In fact, believing in strong parent involvement for a child’s educational process, DrINK is the only school with international standards which organises a Mother’s Day on first Saturday of every month to provide an opportunity to functionally illiterate mothers for visiting the school, sitting in the classroom with their children for hours and discussing their achievements and problems.
The result is that these analphabetic women have now themselves turned serious bookworms and, indeed, the literacy rate of Nandasan and some 70 nearby villages has also shot up to an astounding 74 per cent over the years.
Hindu families have been making beeline for their wards’ admission in this minority educational institution which opened in 2004
Hindu families in and around Kadi taluka, who gave a wide berth to DrNIK when it opened in 2004 after the 2002 riots, have been making a beeline for their wards’ admission in this school for the past several years, and now take pride in seeing their children going to colleges for higher studies. Truth to tell, some of these brainy alumni are not just booksmarts but have settled in different parts of the world, having carved out a niche for themselves in their respective fields.
“Dr Nakadar and his family always dreamt of creating an educational institution to uplift the standards of education and to motivate families to send their children for higher studies”, informs Principal Imran Diwan, who can read any student like a book.
Even in these corona times when mammon-worshipping school managements in Gujarat are demanding astronomical fees from hard-pressed parents, leading to a long-drawn legal wrangle in the High Court, DrNIK’s class teachers never read the riot act to the penurious children by insisting on seeing the colour of their money.
Not just that, campus director Amanullah Shethwala, a computer science expert and former head of the department of E-commerce in a prestigious college, also told this writer that 30 per cent of the students living on the breadline were yet to pay even last year’s fees.
“After all, DrNIK is a warm and tightly-knit learning community. Its basic aim is to create, establish and offer opportunities to all children, regardless of age, gender or community to achieve a balanced cognitive, emotional and psychomotor development,” sums up Shethwala.
All said and done, the pacifistic students and teachers of this ‘school of communal harmony’ in Gujarat can surely teach a lesson or two to Hindu and Muslim fanatics in the Prime Minister’s homeland.
---
*Senior Ahmedabad-based journalist. Click here for interview with Dr Nakadar

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