With 63 residential campuses in 20 of the 23 districts of West Bengal, Al-Ameen Mission is mentoring 17,000 students; so far it has produced 3,000 doctors, 2,800 engineers and hosts of civil servants, professors and lawyers
Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India
A SILENT revolution in education is taking place in West Bengal which the rest of India may not be aware of. What is significant about this revolution is that it is happening in the marginalised section of Muslims.
The Al-Ameen Mission, a Howrah-based charitable organisation, has been spearheading a movement for over three decades to educate those who can’t afford quality education. Its success graph is increasing each year. This year, 378 students mentored by Al-Ameen have been selected for medical education (310 for MBBS and 68 for BDS).
This figure is after the first round of counselling held on July 16, 2020, when Clarion India interviewed Nurul Islam, the founder general secretary of the organisation. He is expecting another 100 students to be selected in subsequent rounds of counselling.
A total of 516 students of Al-Ameen have cleared NEET, an all-India written test for admission to medical colleges. Out of that, 378 have already been selected. This is no mean achievement considering the fact that two-thirds of them come from a background where becoming a medical doctor is just unthinkable.
Al-Ameen has been achieving this success year after year. In 2019, its 407 students secured admission in medical colleges for MBBS and BDS education. As many as 370 students were successful in 2018; 115 in 2017; 393 in 2016; 223 in 2015; and 212 in 2014.
Al-Ameen mentors both boys and girls. Thirty per cent of its students come from families who are very poor and categorised by the government as below poverty line. Forty percent are from lower middle income groups. The rest belong to the middle and upper middle income group. That means 70 per cent students enrolled here come from poor families.
Al-Ameen’s journey started in 1986-87 with only seven students. The aim was to give modern education with moral values in a full residential system where students from all strata of society, irrespective of their economic conditions, would stay and learn together. Students coming from the poorest sections of society were given free education. Donations and zakat were collected to meet up with the expenses. Gradually, the name of the mission spread far and wide and people came along and a movement started.
Nurul Islam says that in the 80s when he started his mission, the percentage of Muslim students in medical and engineering colleges of West Bengal was hardly two to three per cent. “But because of Al-Ameen’s efforts that percentage is today between 20 and 30 percent,” he claims.
The current strength of Al-Ameen is 17,000 students. It admits students from Class V to XII. Those preparing for competitive exams also stay here beyond 12th. Merit is given top priority for admission. A common admission test is conducted for all its branches at 63 residential campuses in 20 of the 23 districts of West Bengal. Those who qualify are called for an objective test followed by interviews of their guardians.
A substantial number of seats are reserved for orphans and meritorious students of very poor families. They are also given special financial aid. In 2019, about 32,000 students appeared for admission tests to classes V to XII. Nurul Islam says his institution is able to accommodate only up to 20 per cent applicants.
Al-Ameen is essentially a residential institution. Those selected are required to stay in one of the 63 campuses that it runs throughout West Bengal. They are taken care of by everything: from education to food to accommodation. A strict discipline is followed by everyone alike from students to teachers to general staff.
Howrah, where it is headquartered, has four campuses in which 3,000 students are living. Al-Ameen also has campuses outside West Bengal: One in Patna, one in Ranchi and one in Tripura. There is one more in Assam which temporarily is not functional.
Fees of the students are determined as per financial capacities of their families. Being a charitable organisation, Al-Ameen gives 100 per cent subsidy in the fees and even takes other responsibilities of education and upbringing of a deserving student if deemed fit. At present, Al-Ameen’s fee structure is divided into three categories:
- 25 per cent students pay zero to 25 per cent fee. Their subsidy is funded by zakat from across the country;
- 40 per cent pay fee ranging from 26 percent to 60 per cent. This subsidy is funded through general donations of the public;
- 35 per cent pay between 61 per cent and 100 per cent.
Focus on school education
Besides preparing students for medical and engineering, Al-Ameen is also focused on basic education of students under its guardianship. This year, 2,223 of its male and female students appeared for Class XII exams of states as well as Central boards. Not only all succeeded, 81 of them even occupied their positions within the rank of 20.
The background of all the successful candidates is noticeable: 605, or 27 per cent, are from poor and BPL families; 775, or 35 percent, from lower middle income groups; and 843, or 38 per cent from middle and upper middle income groups.
Similarly, 1,777 boys and girls took exams for Class 10. Fifteen of them occupied their positions within the rank of 20. Their background: 627, or 35 per cent, come from poor and BPL families; 680, 38 percent, from lower middle income groups; and 470, or 27 per cent, from middle and upper middle income groups.
During the last 34 years of its existence, Al-Ameen has developed a strong base of alumni. They number 23,000, according to Nurul Islam. Out of that, 3,000 are doctors and 2,800 engineers. The rest are in various other fields such as civil services, academia, law and media.
The boys and girls hailing from the most backward areas and lowest strata of society, he says, are now dreaming to become doctors, engineers, civil servants, teachers, professors, researchers, lawyers or journalists.
Nurul Islam calls it a “Silent revolution”.
“Silently, a revolution is taking place. Al-Ameen has become the conduit in this whole churning of transformation which may be defined as a silent revolution,” he says.
A look at the list of Al-Ameen alumni bears testimony to what Nurul Islam is claiming. The list includes successful professionals and academicians in prestigious institutions. What is heartening is their background. Most of them belong to economically poor sections of society. But for this educational movement, they would have remained poor and uneducated. But today, they are respectable members of society and source of inspiration for others.
Some of the notable alumni are listed below:
Md Arif Shaikh, Senior Research Fellow at Harish Chandra Research Institute, Prayagraj, UP.
Dr Safina Begum, MS, Senior Resident at Fort Gloster State General Hospital, Howrah, West Bengal.
Dr Nargis Molla, MS, Specialist Medical Officer (Gynaecology), Dhaniakhali Rural Hospital, West Bengal.
Magfura Parvin, Senior Research Fellow, Vidyasagar University, Midnapur, West Bengal.
Dr Sk Altaf Hossien, MD, DNB Post-Doctoral Fellow, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore.
Dr Khandekar Fariduddin, MS, Assistant Professor, Malda Medical College and Hospital, Malda, West Bengal.
Dr Hibjul Ali Khan, MS, Assistant Professor, College of Medicine & Sagore Dutta Hospital.
Dr Md Hadiuzzaman, MS, MCH Senior Resident, SSKM Hospital.
Akram Hoque, MBA, Founder Editor, The Policy Times.
Ali Ahmed Alamgir, WBCS, Assistant Labour Commissioner.
Jahangir Mollick, WBCS (Exe), Deputy Magistrate and Deputy Collector, West Bengal.
Shayan Ahmad, WBPS, Deputy Superintendent of Police, West Bengal.
Sk Samsuddin, WBPS, Deputy Superintendent of Police, West Bengal
Ramjan Ali, WBCS, Assistant Commissioner of Revenue, West Bengal.
Dr Kader Ali Sarkar, Assistant Professor, Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, West Bengal.
Dr Mukandar Sekh, Assistant Professor, Aliah University, Kolkata.
Md Minarul Islam, Divisional Engineer (IT & C), WBSETCL, Vidyut Bhavan Minarul, West Bengal.
Md Golam Mortoza, Chartered Accountant, Senior Executive (Finance), Management Development Institute, Murshidabad, West Bengal.
Dr Md Samim Reja, MVSc, Veterinary Officer, Domjur Block, Howrah, West Bengal.
Healthcare unit in Khalatpur
Recently, Al-Ameen has opened a healthcare facility at its main campus of Khalatpur in Howrah district. It is run mainly by its alumni, some of whom are today established medical practitioners. They regularly visit the healthcare unit and give their services to poor and needy people of the locality.