Niloufer Manzur started Sunbeams School in 1974 in her own residence at Indira Road, with only a handful of students. In over four decades, the institution has grown into a household name, entirely to the credit of the educator's vision.
She instilled in her students the values of knowledge, leadership, patriotism, integrity, humility, confidence and commitment – each one representing a beam of the red sun, in the school's logo. She always encouraged her students to care for those in need and participate in extra-curricular activities. When we passed the tenth grade and joined the A Level batch, she invited us to join the school's extra-curricular clubs as mentors. She was in the audience at all the school events, watching and cheering her students on.
Sunbeams always felt like a family – and our 'Mrs Manzur' was its matriarch. She regularly walked around the campus, checking up on students and teachers. If she crossed paths with any students during her rounds, she asked them how they were, and often congratulated them on their grades or expressed disappointment at their irregular attendance.
Mrs Manzur was as kind as she was strict. The students who were called into her room to be disciplined – as our entire batch once was – witnessed her disappointed stare, which was enough to make any student repent whatever they did. She had high expectations from all her students.
I had the privilege of introducing Mrs Manzur's daughter, Munize Manzur (our Muna Miss), as the master of ceremonies at the Dhaka Lit Fest one time. Seeing Mrs Manzur in the audience, I got very nervous during the speech. Although I did not meet her afterwards, I returned to Sunbeams a few months later to collect some documents, and went to her office to meet her. As we conversed, she recalled my blunders on the stage at the fest, and commented that I needed to be clearer in my diction. It struck me how even though I had left Sunbeams, she still held me to the same level of precision and pushed me to be the best version of myself.
However, my most recent and poignant memory of Mrs Manzur was how she stood by my family when my father passed away. As he passed away on January 15, Sunbeams' Foundation Day, Mrs Manzur invited me back to the school a week later to join the Foundation Day celebrations. The Sunbeams family held a special prayer for my father that day.
Moreover, Mrs Manzur waived the fees for my sister for her last two years at Sunbeams. She always found ways for students to continue their education at the school, if their families were struggling. Her compassion was also evident in how she respected every support staff member of the school.
I would like to thank Mrs Manzur, for shaping generations of 'Beamers' into responsible and kind human beings. Her legacy will be fondly treasured by all those whose lives she has touched.
The writer is from the 2011 batch of Sunbeams.