Four decades ago, a 29-year-old man who had studied up to SSC level started teaching children at his village in Gaibandha for Tk 1 a day.
Today, children of hard-up families at Baguria village are still getting the service from Lutfar Rahman for the same charge.
Lutfar has dedicated his life to teaching because he wants to spread the light of education among underprivileged children. “I had started teaching to tackle financial distress but I gradually started to enjoy it. I found joy seeing children study,” said Lutfar, fondly called “ek takar master” in his locality.
This correspondent met the teacher on January 28. Lutfar returned home on a bicycle after imparting lessons in adjacent villages -- Madaner Para, Pulbandi, Chandia, and Dhulipara.
Lutfar starts his day at six in the morning and goes to different villages on a bicycle provided by Gaibandha Upazila Parishad. In the evening, around 16 students come to his home for lessons. Most of his students are primary school children.
Besides school-goers, children of low-income families who cannot afford formal education also go to him, according to Lutfar's family.
Asked why he did not hike his fees in the last 40 years, Lutfar said, “I don't want money. I teach the unprivileged children so that they can make their parents smile.
“People from all walks of life respect me. This is my achievement. I have taught thousands of children all through my life, many of them are well-established now,” he said.
One of his students, Mehedi Hasan, is the deputy assistant engineer at the Education Engineering Department in Rangpur's Pirgachha upazila.
Mehedi told this paper, “When I was in class-II in 1996, I could not afford extra tuitions due to poverty. Lutfar sir taught me for Tk 1 only.”
Locals described how Lutfar enlightened the backward community.
“People in this area were not aware of the importance of education. Lutfar Rahman used to visit homes of poor farmers and convince them to send their children to schools,” said Azam Khan, a 59-year-old resident of Baguria.
For Lutfar's contribution to education, the upazila parishad gave him a bicycle last year.
Before that, Lutfar used to walk to adjacent villages, said his wife Latiful Begum. The couple has two sons.
Md Harun-ur Rashid, chairman of Geedari Union Parishad, said almost everyone in Gaibandha was aware of Lutfar's contribution to education. He tackled so many obstacles and faced criticism even from his family, but he never gave up.
Upazila Nirbahi Officer Uttam Kumar Roy said, “I personally know him. Lutfar deserves respect from the society for what he is doing. I have assured him of any kind of help, but he never asked for anything.”
Lutfar used to make Tk 40 to Tk 50 a day before and he still makes similar amounts today as many children get lessons for free. He had struggled to make ends meet before, but things have changed a little with his sons -- one an auto-rickshaw driver and the other a madrasa teacher -- contributing to the family.