Educating people: Kolkata youth icon Wali Rahmani appeals for funds, this time to build a hostel

By Heena Fatima

Kolkata-based young education activist and youth icon Wali Rahmani who hit the headlines in September last year for collecting Rs 7.5 crore in seven days for a school building is at it again. Having utilized his funds in constructing a three-storey, state-of-the-art school building, Rahmani, 25, is back with another appeal through a video. This time he is seeking help to complete the under-construction hostel building.

In the previous video clip Rahmani had informed the people, especially the Muslim community that he was tired of begging and was forced to make that video as he could not find any other way to reach his goal of collecting at least Rs 10 crore. “Without Allah’s help, I could not have received the huge amount in small donations. My appeal touched the chords and people responded to it with an urgency that had perhaps never been seen in the history of Indian Muslims,” he said.

MS Education Academy

“We need Rs 2.50 crore to complete the first phase of the hostel. We have around 350 students from Bihar, Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand and we cannot move our children here unless our hostel is complete,” said Rahmani on mobile phone from the Umeed Academy located 15 km from Kolkata.

Rahmani had created a sensation when his appeal made through a video went viral and his bank account received a deluge of transactions, taking the bank authorities by surprise. Suspecting a “scam” the bank authorities had frozen this account after it received Rs 7.5 crore in seven days. “I had appealed to Muslims and told them that, if ten lakh Muslims donated just Rs 100 each, I could get Rs 10 crore, the amount I needed to build the infrastructure for this school building with world-class infrastructure. I had to stop because my bank account was frozen,” said Rahmani, a law graduate whose father once pulled a hand-rickshaw before becoming a leather merchant.

Currently with 350 students in classes from KG to seventh (it will go till 12th as year passes), it will have a total strength of 1000 students once it fills all the classes. The school has 24 smart classrooms, labs for chemistry, physics, and biology and innovation technology. While Berry Avionics has set the innovation technology with subjects like robotics, drone technology, coding, three-D, printing technology, and Artificial Intelligence, the curriculum is certified by the World Trade Centre, Pune, a franchisee of WTC, New York. The syllabus follows STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) learning and is of international level. “From day one, we aim to provide rich people’s education to the poor,” Rahmani said. “We do not charge a single penny from our students as they come from underprivileged families.” Among the facilities include a football ground and a basketball court.

Out of 35 staff, 25 are highly qualified teachers and more teachers will be hired as the school adds on classes in coming years. When asked how he wants to make the school financially sustainable since he does not take any fee from the students, Rahmani said he is aiming to create an endowment fund as Harvard School has created through its Harvard Management Company, a parallel business model. “In India, it is a bit difficult because of the different legal complications, but we will find a way out,” he hoped.

Currently, donations from some regular donors and well-wishers of the Academy meet the expenses.

In the latest video, Rahmani takes viewers to a guided tour of the school and explains how he has not compromised on the quality of materials used in the building or the amenities he has created for a world-class institution.

Significantly, 6% of the students are non-Muslims. While Muslim students are taught the Quran, Islamiyat and Urdu, non-Muslims learn moral education. The principal is Rinku Bhattacharya while general manager Abhishek Mukherjee, a retired armed force personnel, is the project’s “backbone,” says Rahmani.

“The very fact that my principal and general manager are non-Muslims proves that our school is open to all and we do not discriminate against anyone,” he explained.

Unlike the appeal in September last year which received an unprecedentedly great response, the second appeal has not generated a warm response. He explains it is because he is sharing the website instead of directly the account number as he had done previously. Once a donor goes to the website, he or she is directed to the donation option. “We are in the initial days of the holy month of Ramzan. As the month progresses, donations too will pick up. Inshallah,” he hoped.

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