How a boat tragedy spurred one man to start an island’s first English medium school

Abdul Rasheed started an English medium school at Kasaba-Bengre in 2004 so students did not have to go across the river to Mangalore to study.
How a boat tragedy spurred one man to start an island’s first English medium school
How a boat tragedy spurred one man to start an island’s first English medium school
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By Kashifah Jinan

It was the unfortunate boat capsizing incident on Nethravathi River in the mid-90s that forever left an emotional scar on Abdul Rasheed. The tragic mishap claimed the lives of many of the ferry’s passengers, including several school-going children between the ages of 6 and 13.

Although the island-village of Kasaba-Bengre had a government run school, these children wanted to pursue education in English medium and therefore were using the ferry to reach their respective schools in Mangalore.

“I clearly remember most of these kids were encouraged by their mothers to learn in English medium. They would chip in their household savings to support their children’s education. One may not even be able to imagine what a mother might have gone through on learning of her child’s death,” Rasheed says.

Abdul Rasheed in his office

First English medium school

Deeply moved by the event and to avert such mishaps in the future, Rasheed along with his cousin and advocate MA Nazeer decided to start an English medium school at Kasaba-Bengre itself.

“Despite the love and reverence we have for our mother tongue, it’s very obvious that we have to be familiar with English to enhance our future prospects,” Rasheed says.

However, though motivated to kick-start their dream project, Rasheed and Nazeer faced quite a few hurdles and discouragement in the beginning.

“Many said that we may not find enough students or that we may not find both financial and local support to continue the project. However, we didn’t pay heed to such words and set our plan in motion,” Rasheed recalls.

Eventually, in 2004 Rasheed registered a trust under the name of his father, namely the MB Kunhi Memorial Education Association, and subsequently registered the Sahara Primary School at Bengre, Kasaba. While initially the school was run in a small makeshift room with 28 students and two teachers, it now boasts of a staff of eight teachers and two administrative faculty. About 300 students from LKG to Class 5 have been coached.

Located off the coast of Mangalore city, Kasaba-Bengre lies where the Nethravathi river merges with the Arabian sea. With a population of approximately 7,000 people, a few locals are engaged in fishing and related occupations. In the absence of a connecting bridge by road, other locals use the ferry service to cross over to Mangalore city to pursuit business, education and employment.

The school has not secured government support but has all the basic facilities such as separate classrooms, washrooms, playground, and conducts field trips at regular intervals, while adhering to the rules and regulations of the education department.

“Although the annual fee is set for Rs 7,500, people in the region are not economically well-off, therefore in most cases we have to extend fee concessions and waivers,” Rasheed says.

A success story

The 61-year-old, who has completed his matriculation, says that he feels a sense of pride when his students tell him that they have appeared confidently and cleared their interviews at higher primary levels in prominent schools in Mangalore and other cities.

“I don’t think I will be able to do that, in fact I’m scared to even attempt it,” Rasheed laughs.

The first batch of the school’s students have cleared matriculation and are now pursuing higher studies in leading institutions across Mangalore and elsewhere, he says. Bearing witness to the success of this not-for-profit school, another private school has recently been set up at Bengre.

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