Against all odds

Belal Hossain Biplob and Azibor Rahman, with Andrew Eagle

He was in class-IX when he had to drop out of school. Poverty, a common foe to countless talents in Bangladesh, forced him to fend for himself and the family, and never let him pursue his dream of becoming a government official.

“For days, I felt like all my dreams were crushed … But still I longed for education,” said Gamir Uddin, now 60, of Balorampur village in Jhenidah’s Harinakundo upazila.

However, he didn’t give up. Instead, he started living his dream through other ill-fated underprivileged children of his village.

Three decades ago, Gamir started a school in a dilapidated tin shed on a corner of his little piece of homestead and named it Ananda Pathshala, literally meaning school of joy. He began giving tuition to the disadvantaged children studying at different schools for free.

“It was difficult for my father to manage even two square meals a day for us. There was no way my six siblings or I could demand of him any educational expense. So, I had to drop out [of school]. But I didn’t want to let that happen to anyone else around me,” Gamir says.

His school now has 50 students of different grades. Gamir helps them with English, Maths, Science and other subjects. The students attend his classes before or after their school hours.

“[Gamir] Sir has helped build our basic knowledge. He makes learning easy. So we are confident that we can do well in the exams,” seventh grader Falguni Khatun says enthusiastically. She has been attending Ananda Pathshala for the past five years.

With no tertiary qualification and external financial support, it was not easy for Gamir to bear the expenses of his school.

To support himself, Gamir cultivates 38 decimals of land leased from his neighbours and spends a good deal of his meagre earnings to purchase chalks, dusters and other school supplies.

“Around 400-500 students have taken private tuition from me in the past 30 years,” says Gamir who is so lovingly called Gram Bondhu (friend of the village) by the locals for his contribution to education there.

“Some of my students have grown up now to become bankers and other big jobs. Some have even got government jobs,” he boasts.

“It’s such a pleasure when former students visit me and I find out what they have been able to achieve.”

As for his personal life, Gamir was married to Ayesha Khatun when he was just 18, his wife a year younger. Sadly, after three years of a happy life together, his wife died. For his love for her and teaching, he decided to remain single thereafter. “If I’d remarried, I would not have been able to give best efforts to the school,” he explains.

Gamir also has a passion for music and literature. He has composed over 400 poems and rhymes, and 100 folk songs, which have earned him many accolades locally and nationally, he says.

He hopes to publish his writings some day; but a far greater hope is to spend his remaining days teaching his students with zeal and sincerity.

And due to his undeterred commitment, students from different villages around Gamir’s now come to his school.

Intajul Islam, lecturer of a local college, sends his son to the school. “My son is improving every day … Gamir’s teaching methods attract many.”

Local physician Abdur Rahim too spoke highly of Gamir’s teaching style. “He never tires of labouring for these remote area students … He is an inspiration, an ideal human being.”

Source: The Daily Star. Date: October 26 2015