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PhD Engineer From Jharkhand Quits City Life, Dream Job To Start ‘Schoolasium’ In Rural Areas

Mohammed Sajid Hussain had the perfect life on paper, from getting the Marie Curie fellowship for his Ph.D. in Germany to landing a job as a researcher in the prestigious National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) in Bangalore, but for the then 28-year-old his life for missing fulfillment. So the engineer went back to Jharkhand, his hometown, and finally found his purpose when he started a school that provides practical education and real-world knowledge to children.

Sajid has had a very humble upbringing, his father is class tenth educated and working a government job while his mother did not attend school beyond sixth grade. However, his parents made sure Sajid’s education was not compromised. The 35-year-old went to a government school in Chitarpur village in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district, then going on to complete his engineering at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore. Sajid’s hard work paid off and he bagged the Marie Curie fellowship at Germany’s Technical University Braunschweig. When Sajid returned to India he started working in Bangalore at NAL but he was still not happy. He admits that he continued working as an engineer simply because he had a degree in the subject and that his real desire was to help people and create positive change in society.

So in 2014, Sajid started Mount Everest Public School in his hometown which he says is a ‘schoolasium’ and teaches students practical knowledge along with theoretical knowledge. In 2016, Sajid quit his well-paying job to focus on the school full time. And although Sajid was doing good for society and helping so many people around him, his family was disappointed that he left his job for what they considered a worthless venture. However, this did not shake Sajid’s conviction and he continued to pursue his dream.

“I experimented with my innovative learning ideas and got many insights. I approached officials including the District Magistrates. They loved the idea and gave me a permit to include my program in some government schools,” says Sajid, who believes the problem currently is that students are exam-driven and don’t learn the practical nuances required to excel in the careers they choose.

He queries, “How can we make scientists, writers, poets, novelists if we are just making students prepare for exams. They are passionate about what they want and do, but we make them exam-driven.”

Sajid has helped incorporate his “Schoolasium Innovation Lab” in 32 government schools and 15 private schools with the help of teachers and education administrators across Jharkhand, Bihar, and Bengal. Those students who want to enroll in the program are charged a nominal fee of Rs 500, however, if they can’t afford it the fee is waivered. Sajid says that they are constantly on the lookout for donations and investors, and currently 60 people are employed with Sajid, with many volunteers from institutes like IIT and NASA.
Sajid shares that in the past five years he has seen a huge improvement in the students from rural areas, claiming that his program helps students build confidence, problem-solving skills, practical knowledge, and communication skills.

He shares, “We have a long way to go, but I feel a sense of satisfaction from helping others especially.”

Sajid’s remarkable work landed him a spot in Jharkhand’s top 11 best entrepreneurs list in 2018, by US consulate General, Kolkata, and DoIT & e-Gov. Jharkhand. In 2019, he was awarded the ‘Best Innovative Idea’ by DoIT & eGov and the Government of Jharkhand for his innovative learning program. He has also won the PM award in the Innovation category. In the future, Sajid wishes to “create an ecosystem for teachers and students for experience-based learning where innovation will be the soul of the learning”.

This story is submitted by Bilal Khan and edited by Alfea Shaikh.

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