Passionate banker who spends all his off-work time and 90 % of earning for spreading quality education in his community
By A Mirsab, TwoCircles.net,
Bhopal: He could have been just another banker, earning a fat salary, laughing his way to the bank and generally spending a life of luxury. But it is not his wont to earn and spend for himself.
Troubled by the pathetic situation of the Muslim community members, most lacking even basic education for various reasons, the banker decided to pitch in his share for the community’s welfare. With one student and one teacher, he started a school in city’s Abbas Nagar area in 2003. After a lot of research, he chose the International Baccalaureate (IB) course and clubbed it with Islamic values.
Mansoor Durrani, the high profile banker from Saudi Arabia, was very clear about one thing. The one-and-only way to rebuild the Muslim community is through world-class education. “I was determined that instead of putting Muslims on the path of begging (job reservation etc.), whatever Allah has blessed me with in terms of time, energy, money, I will commit all of that to empower Muslims by providing them world-class education,” Durrani, 48, told TwoCircles.net.
His Eastern Public School (EPS) today has 350-odd students in all grades from nursery till class XII. The school also offers IB’s globally respected Diploma Programme after class X. The unique thing about this school is that as against private schools offering IB courses, the fees charged by EPS is very less, possibly one of the lowest in Asia, if not the world, for IB course. This is because Durrani claims, he spends almost 90 % of his earnings on the school.
The first cohort of Diploma Program who joined EPS as Nursery kids
“School education is the very foundation of a modern society. Everything else is built upon this foundation. Stronger the foundation, wider the choices for doing whatever we wish to do with our coming generations,” he says when asked why he thinks schooling/education is the only area that his valuable wealth and time are devoted for.
He informs that the basic difference between EPS and other Islamic schools in India is that EPS endeavours to integrate core Islamic values with the academic excellence, the purpose and motive for which “EPS spend considerable time, energy and funds in training the teachers. We try to combine IB with organised Islamic studies and focus to develop normal, decent Muslim professionals instead of memorizing Qu’ran and giving heavy doses of Fiqh or otherwise that numerous other institutions are doing,” Durrani, who is the Senior Vice President and Head of Project Finance at the National Commercial Bank in Saudi Arabia, says.
Formatives – Hands on
EPS offers Islamic studies that are also different from other traditional religious programmes taught in madrassas or other Islamic institutions. Explaining, he says, “Our focus is more on planting Islamic character in our students’ hearts rather than merely injecting Islamic content in their heads. At EPS, every subject teacher endeavours to connect their respective subject with Islam’s viewpoint related to that subject. Developing such teachers has been a Himalayan task that has taken enormous amount of effort, money and time; and even after 12 years of persistence, it is still a work-in progress.”
And the effort is evident even for the teachers and staff who joined later. After 15 years at different IB schools, Umar Jaffar, 50, joined EPS as the director in January this year. The kind of environment and learning background set up at the EPS has given him “real job satisfaction,” Jaffar says, adding, “It gives me great feeling that indeed I am witnessing a positive generational change with the best of the academic programme in the world.”
Investigations – core to lab work
One would imagine that for running and maintaining such a school of high caliber and competency there will be in place a team of strong, dedicated and organized individuals. Of course, the school has a well-trained team. But the one and only one man who spends every bit of his energy and wealth behind the school is Durrani, who is also the Chairman of the school.
He claims he spends most of his earnings in achieving the goal he had made during the foundation of EPS. “Alhamdu’lillah, for the last 12 years, I have been donating 90% of my salary every month for this. Despite being one of the highest paid Muslim NRIs in the Gulf, I do not own even a one-room house for me or my family!”
As a result, the EPS sustains on what Durrani provides for and fees generated from the students. There is no other donor. That is what he had dreamed of for, he believes, it is education alone that will bring out the community from its dire strait. He had started the school with the aim to “empower Muslims by providing them world-class education” but it was the findings of the Sachar Committee about the status of Muslims in India, especially the educational status of India’s Muslims, which came as a bolt in blue for him.
“Few of us who have been living in ivory towers were surprised. As a knee jerk reaction (that we are very good at), some of us got agitated, others protested and blamed successive governments, some others appealed to resourceful Muslims to ‘do something for the community’,” he says.
Never left behind on Technology
His resolve to pursue ‘world class education for the community’ strengthened further. Here too, he was clearly against spending money in establishing engineering and medical institutions, which, according to him, are founded usually with inner commercial intention than serving the community. He strongly believes, there should be a self-imposed ban within the community on spending our scarce resources in setting up engineering or management or even medical colleges.
His logic is simple: If the community can produce top-performers at school level, then those students will be competitive enough to find places in the country’s top engineering or management or medical colleges and would have the opportunity to take more seats in national level institutions compared to what professional colleges established by the community people offer.
Fortunately for Durrani, the teachers and the staff, too, share his vision. S R Krishnan, 38, is the Diploma Programme (DP) coordinator and Head of Mathematics Department. He joined about a year ago. “It’s been a wonderful experience so far. The staff here is committed about the vision set by Durrani Sir, who wishes to provide quality education to the community.”
Information Literacy at the library
Over a decade of perusing quality education, best-in-class infrastructure, library, science and technology labs, especially as compared with other Islamic or non-Islamic schools, has yielded results for the institution. Just a month ago, EPS was awarded the ‘Best International School in India for Service to the Community’ award at the Asia Education Summit at New Delhi. The award was instituted by Worldwide Achievers, a market research company in association with media outlets Headlines Today and Mail today. Earlier in 2011, the in-house magazine of the IB community ‘IB World’ had chosen EPS – “the far sighted school” – as one of the featured official initiatives across six countries with unique approaches.
The expenses incurred by the school, especially for high quality teachers and other staff, is way beyond the fees collected from students and the whole expenditure including infrastructure, laboratories, staff salaries, trainings and other programmes are taken care of by Durrani alone. But that is also a cause of worry for him in view of the future.
What happens to EPS in case of any misfortune, how will it continue to offer services to the community? “This is one concern that keeps me awake at nights. First of all, we have not built good quality institutions. And if there are a few, then these are not self-sustaining. They are mostly standing on crutches, like EPS. If I lose my job, or face any other mishap, then the institution that has been built brick-by-brick over 12 years can literally collapse in 12 days.”
Taekwondo – on the move
As a solution, he says, “Besides completing a multi-million dollar, purpose built campus, I am also paying almost 60% operating expenses every month. This is scary. Although EPS will continue to be one of the lowest fee IB World Schools anywhere in the world, but in the larger interest of school and students’ own future, we are gradually increasing the fees.”
Speaking about Durrani’s contribution and commitment towards EPS, towards the cause, towards the community, Jaffar says, “His only motivation is his commitments towards providing quality education to the young generation of the community. Besides financial support, his valuable time, efforts and ideas are the main power source of EPS.”
And surprisingly, even though EPS is wholly standing on the sole shoulders of Durrani, no one can find his name either at the school premises or on its website. He is a silent educationist without whom nothing can happen at EPS but he desires no credit for it!
More details about the Eastern Public School can be found here.