He gave it all up to set up a school | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 09, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:15 AM, March 09, 2020

He gave it all up to set up a school

When most people are busy pursuing personal interest, there are some who strive to change the society.

Ninety-one-year-old Abdul Khalek falls in the second category.

With money he earned by working at his tea-stall, he had bought a piece of land. In 1997, he donated this sole property for establishing a school.

"Since childhood, I dreamt of setting up a school in my village," Abdul said, adding that the people of his village were too poor to afford education.

His village Nalua Chandpur, which is located at the edge of Laksham and Barura upazilas of Cumilla and Kachua upazila of Chandpur, did not have any high school. The nearest high school was five kilometres away.

He studied up to class eight, then had to drop out of school because his father, a poor farmer, could not afford the cost of his studies anymore, he said.

Abdul did not want the young boys and girls of his village to face the same fate.

"I bought around 52 decimals of land in the Pakistan era. This was my only property, which I preferred to use for the betterment of the villagers rather than my personal benefit," Abdul said.

Two men -- Abdur Rahim and Sirajul Haque -- came forward to help.

"They went door to door to collect students. Local youths volunteered to build the schoolhouse with bamboo fences and sheets of tin donated by the villagers," remembered the humble philanthropist. 

Although the school started its journey on January 1, 1997 as Abdul Khalek's High School, the official name was changed to Nalua Chandpur High School to enlist it under the government's Monthly Pay Order (MPO) scheme last year.

Sirajul, a freedom fighter and one of the initiators of the school, explained that as per government rules, a school, named after an individual, needs to have a considerable sum of money in its fund.

"We started the school with zero fund. The tea-stall owner's land was the only donation with which we started," he reminisced, adding that initially they did not have any money to even pay the teachers.

"Young men of the village taught at the school for free at that time," he added.

Thus, they had little choice but to change the name to Nalua Chandpur to enlist the school for MPO.

The freedom fighter, however, hoped that the government will take initiatives to change the name back to Abdul Khalek's High School to honour the nonagenarian's contribution.  

Nalua Chandpur High School currently has 437 students and 10 teachers, of whom six have been MPO listed last year and four work on part-time basis, informed Md Rafiqul Islam, the head teacher of the school.

"The first batch of students of our school sat for the SSC examination in 2014. This year, 25 students are taking the public exam from our school," he said.

"Besides, construction of two academic buildings will begin this year under government funding," the head teacher added.

Young at heart

Two years after the school started its journey, a tragedy hit Abdul Khalek's life.

His wife Sakina Akhter died in a road accident on her way to visit the school. Since then, the childless widower considers the institute as his child.

Every morning, he visits the school, wanders around its premises, talks with teachers and students and takes note on how things are running.

Ninth-grader Rubel Hossain of Nalua Chandpur school told The Daily Star, "The school's founder Abdul Khalek is like our grandfather. We feel proud for the great initiative he took."

Abdul had continued running his tea-stall, which was situated beside the school until 2014. Then his relatives and friends persuaded him to retire. He currently lives with his brother's family.

Loved and respected by all, Abdul does not feel like a 91-year-old. "I am just 27-year-old," he replies, whenever anyone enquires about his age. His powerful voice echoes his mental strength and determination.

Reflecting on Abdul's contribution, Moinul Islam, chairman of Barura upazila, said, "Abdul Khalek has established a milestone for us. We must learn from his philanthropic act. He has enlightened our upazila."  

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