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After Dedicating 4 Decades to Teaching, 72-YO Opens Rural Centre for Free Education

Sabiha Hashmi is a retired teacher from Gurugram who has been teaching underprivileged girls in the Jyothipalaya village of Karnataka for free.

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If there is anyone who can fully grasp Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”, it is Karnataka-based Sabiha Hashmi. Having been an educator for over four decades, Sabiha says she was not willing to part ways with teaching even after she retired.

The 72-year-old started to teach and sponsor the education of girls in Jyothipalaya village of Ramanagara district in 2011. From providing books and skill training to the students to footing their school fees and teaching subjects like English, she is going the extra mile to uplift the young girls from marginal backgrounds.

Originally from Delhi, she is a PhD holder from the National Museum Institute of the History of Art, Conservation and Museology. She taught art including sketching, painting, art history and more at Modern School in Delhi and Heritage School in Gurugram.

Sabiha teaching students

“I would regularly trek in the northern Himalayas, where I would find innumerable case studies where girls wanted to study but had to drop out. In Himalayan villages, when men leave their homes and migrate to urban areas, women and girls are left to toil on the farms. As a result, they lose out on education. This is further tied up with the rate of early marriages. When I moved to Karnataka in 2010 to be with my children, I saw the same issue here. Now with time and resources in my hand, it was time to make a difference,” she tells The Better India.

First, Sabiha built a small cottage in the village next to her farms and started teaching girls for free. When she realised they would also need money for higher education, she returned to teaching to ensure a steady source of income. She taught at Poorna Learning Centre and Pramiti School for a while and saved enough to help the eight girls under her care.

Here’s how you can help

After relying on donations from her friends and family in the first year of the project, Sabiha realised that a long term solution needs to be put in place to sustain her initiative.

She channeled her art expertise and taught the girls and their mothers to make products including book racks, pencil holders, remote boxes, jewellery boxes, and bins from upcycled waste like cloth and paper. The proceeds of the sale are collected and used for paying the girls’ school or tuition fees.

Upcycled products
Upcycled products

“We were already making sales by the end of the training. One of our customers is the Delhi Public School (DPS) in Delhi. They use our products frequently as a gifting option for their guests and visiting faculty. Poorna School helps in setting up exhibitions to sell the products,” says Sabiha.

Gradually, she scaled her initiatives and started donating notebooks, bags, pencils and more to school going children. She notes that a highlight of the donations she has received in cash and kind include a vast collection of fiction and non-fiction books written in Kannada. Many children are able to read enthralling stories and inculcate a regular reading habit, thanks to her.

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Talking about the impact, Sabiha proudly reveals that four of her students have cleared Class 10. One of them recently completed her B Ed and another one scored 74% in B Com final year. The latter is presently working as an accountant in a multinational company.

“I teach girls and young mothers who dropped out of or never attended school. One common characteristic among them is the eagerness to gather knowledge and form an identity of their own,” she adds.

Sabiha is in the process of building a library and a learning centre for children living in Jyothipalaya and neighbouring villages. At ‘Ajji’s Learning Centre’, the children can borrow books, study and learn basic computing skills and media arts. They can also come here and explore their creative side with Sabiha’s assistance in story writing, painting, sketching, screen printing, collage making, recycling and more.

The centre will be eco-friendly with solar power installations and rainwater harvesting structures. She is using the donations received for construction. However, she needs help to build the interiors of this library.

Education centre in the making
Education centre in the making

“We need funds for ten computers for our centre, library shelves, chairs, tables and more. This centre is going to positively impact the kids. I will focus on their overall growth and learning. I am going to hire three teachers who will teach a group of ten students in two batches,” says Sabiha.

You can support this initiative by donating kind or cash to:

Ajji’s Learning Centre
Jyothipalaya, Karlamangla Post, Magadi Taluk,
Ramanagara District, Karnataka, 561201

For further details please contact: 9900 690411 or send an email to sabihashmi@yahoo.com.

Edited by Divya Sethu 

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