“I won’t spend excesively or buy expensive clothes. I’ll spend one fourth of my salary on education for children of poor families.” Armed with this oath, 32-year-old Faruq Hossain has been working in a remote area of Dinajpur sadar upazila for the last 10 years.
Faruq is from Malipukur village in Auliapur union of Dinajpur sadar upazila. He is an assistant to a truck driver of Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC).
He spends 25 per cent of his monthly salary of Tk 14,900 for the education of poor people’s children. He takes care of his four-member family, comprising himself, his mother Sanwara Begum, wife Sabera Akhter and two-and-a-half-year-old son Sabbir Hossain with rest of the money.
Faruq distributes education material among the students every Friday and Saturday. He also has set up a centre for educating adults at his house.
In recognition of his initiatives, Faruq was awarded by the prime minister Sheikh Hasina on 13 March this year.
The Malipukur village is 4.5 kilometres away off Dinajpur sadar upazila. On 10 February, the Prothom Alo correspondents visited Faruq’s home. He lives in a dilapidated mud-house. Relatives said Faruq’s father Mahbub Hossain passed away in 2006. He was a labourer at BADC. Faruq also joined as a labourer at BADC in 2002.
All the labourers used to draw their wages with thumbprints as they were not literate and could not sign their names. Faruq studied up to the eighth grade. He started educating his fellow workers so that everyone would be able to sign their names to draw their wages.
Saving his pocket-money along with some taken from his father, Faruq bought 200 taka worth of pens and papers for the labourers. Gradually he imparted basic literacy to all of them. Delighted, a driver Naresh Chandra taught Faruq how to drive. Faruq then joined as a temporary driver at the office of the deputy director of BADC in Rajshahi in 2007. Later on 16 July that year, he was appointed as an assistant to the truck driver and transferred to Rangpur BADC office. Since then, he is working as a driver of BADC joint director (seed processing centre) AFM Saiful Islam.
Unlike others, Faruq did not stop there. “I had a dream to be self-sufficient after completing my studies. But poverty cut my dreams short when I was an eighth grader at Cheradangi High School. That’s why I decided to help those who could not continue studying due to poverty,” said Faruq to Prothom Alo.
Faruq said the studies of Nur Islam from Kashimpur Mahanpara village came to a halt due to lack of education material and proper clothes in July 2008. He went to Nur Islam’s home and gave his mother 3000 taka. Nur Islam is now a student at Dinajpur Government College.
In December that year, Faruq held a meeting with the seniors of the village. He told them he would not eat paan (betel leaf), smole cigarettes or buy expensive clothes. Instead he will help students from poor families. In 2009, he bought education material and clothes for 20 students with 25 per cent of his salary and admitted them to school. As of now, Faruq said, he has helped almost 2,000 students of the union.
Ninth grader Zahid Hossain, eighth grader Amena and seventh grader Abdus Sattar at Cheradangi High School are some of the students from poor families who received Faruq’s help.
When Sima Akhter from Malipukur village was a fifth grader, her father Samirul Islam went missing. Her mother arranged her marriage after three months. But the marriage was halted when Faruq pledged to take care of her education. Sima is now an eighth grader at Sikderganj Girls High School.
“Faruq uncle has given me a new life. I want to be a physician,” Sima told Prothom Alo.
Another student of Sikderganj Girls High School, Tanjila Khatun, showing her schoolbag, said, “Faruq uncle has bought this for me. He also has given me money for private tuition.”
The school’s head teacher of Zakir Hossain said, “Faruq has been showing us the potential of dropout students. He also works to raise awareness to keep the village free of drugs and to ensure road safety. He also plants trees to keep the environment cool.”
Kashimpur Government Primary School’s head teacher Jalal Uddin said, “Faruq distributes pens, pencils, papers and other stationery to students of different schools twice in a month. He also goes to the house to inquire if any student remains absent at school. This is why cent per cent children of Kashimpur attend school.”
Faruq uses his bicycle to go from one school to another. There are several awareness raising stickers stuck to his bicycle against taking drugs, for road safety and against child marriage, etc.
Mousumi Khatun was married off when she was an eighth grader. Her in-laws were against her studies. Faruq persuaded her in-laws to allow her to study and took charge of Mousumi’s education.
“The dreams of many girls like me are being fulfilled thanks to Faruq uncle. Now I’m studying in college,” Mousumi said.
Auliapur union parishad chairman Abdur Razzak considers Faruq a social welfare activist. He was recognised as such on 13 March this year when the prime minister Sheikh Hasina handed over a medal at a programme organised marking National Primary Education Week at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka.
Adult education centre at home
Faruq has opened an adult education centre at home where his wife Sabera Akhter teaches adults of the village.
Faruq married Sabera of Boaldhar village in Baliadangi of Thakurgaon in 2010. She was a ninth grader then.
“I resumed studies upon Faruq's insistence. In 2011, I took up diploma in agriculture at KBM College in Dinajpur. Now I’m a bachelor degree student at Open University,” Sabera told Prothom Alo.
An older woman Shirin Akhter said there was no one in the village who cannot write his/her name.
“Maybe Faruq has not given us material wealth, but we’re living with honour for his efforts,” Sabera said.
Faruq said he does not work for awards. “I started working so that no one of my area lives in the darkness of illiteracy. This will continue until the dropout rate comes down to zero.”
*The report appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza