It’s not me who calls Mr. Sajid Hussain as Phunsuk Wangdu of Jharkhand but there many people who call him so. Why?

Let’s talk to Mr. Sajid and his establishment of experimental learning concept school.

Mr. Thouseef Ahmed and I went to Darbhangha a district of Bihar to attend state conference of SIO Bihar in November 2018. There Mr. Thouseef introduced me to Mr. Sajid in a minute. He was also a guest in that conference.

He is Sajid Hussain from Chitrapur, Jharkhand running a concept school based on ‘learning by doing’ model and to establish it, he left his research, said Mr. Thouseef.

We had a casual mutual introduction, and we moved on as everyone there was busy in conference. During lunch hours I got another chance to interact with Mr. Sajid Hussain and again in break time. We were there for two days and had detailed talk on what plan he has, how he is struggling for it and what he wants to contribute to the society and the nation. He was clear with his aim and vision.

Again after few days Mr. Sajid visited New Delhi to meet some academicians and educationalist. Before coming he informed me and we fixed a plan to sit again and discuss few more things. In his busy schedule, we had a 3-hour sitting and he explained about his project.

During the discussion, Mr. Sajid said, “I am sharing this plan with few academicians, educationalists and some NGO’s”.

Suddenly, I stopped him and asked “do you have copy right of your idea?”

No…! Mr. Sajid replied innocently.

I asked him to do it so, and explained what happens if he doesn’t have the copy right to his idea.

Because we are living in a world where we find, less ethical and more corrupt people.

Corrupt doesn’t only mean taking bribe, but world is full of morally corrupt people.

In this huge competitive world, genuine idea and thoughts are very rare and due to lack of opportunities people sell the ideas and corporate buys it, there may be chance of getting the idea stolen.

After the 3 hours of discussion, he got an important call and we decided to dispersed and had talk later on, but that couldn’t happen.

But we were in contact via phone calls, messages and emails.

In December 2018, I was at home and planned to visit one of my friend’s school which is close to my home. During the discussion I introduced him to the concept of Mr. Sajid Hussain’s startup. Then we three had a discussion over phone call.

Since then I had a plan to introduce Mr. Sajid and his idea to the world around us at least, because I felt Mr. Sajid is the guy who is doing things practically instead of just explaining the theory to the public and giving lectures to get the fame.

I started searching about Mr. Sajid and his concept learning school.

I got few posts about him on facebook and Mr. Sajid himself shared few published articles in various newspapers. I collected all those articles and started reading.

Later, I felt that I know very little about Mr. Sajid and his startup, how can I introduce him to the world around me perfectly. Then I made my mind, instead of writing about him and his idea with my understanding, I will quote the people who were and are very close to him so as to get clear picture of him.

Friend 1: 10 years of Challenge?

Afzalul Haque Ansari introduces the Phunsuk Wangdu of Jharkhand and shares Sajid’s unique 10 years of struggle to successfully establish a concept school for experiential learning.

I was lucky to get some time from Sajid’s busy calendar while he is visiting Bangalore to give talks in TIFR, IISc and Azim PremJi University on experiential learning. I know Sajid from IISc where we shared same hostel. He had shared a google doc ‘Khaka-e-madrasa” (layout of school) with us around 2010 having details of structure of curriculum and motto of school. Sajid was a researcher in Material Department then and went on grabbing a lucrative research opportunity in Europe to work on new materials with most advanced material and metallurgy labs in world. He also worked as CSIR scientist in National Aeronautics Labs. He got Marie Curie Fellowships to continue his research across Europe in collaboration with industries. He turned down that prestigious fellowship to follow his dream to give shape to “khaka-e-madarsa” once again. When he was asked why he is leaving this research and where he sees himself in ten years, he was clear in thoughts and dream, ‘starting a school, improving academics for rural area’, he said. It was back in 2014 when he came back to India and started working on his project seriously.

I will not undermine the success by giving details of working of a school, which got best brains available across world in science, management and social studies trying to solve problem of education in rural sector, which covers 70% of India. Rather I will give you a story of 10 years old Amir who won Gold medal in Mathematics Olympiad. Amir is from a poor family of Jharkhand who has to work to support his family. Or story of Naimur from this 4 year old school who got 3rd place in Jharkhand in science Olympiad. Or how private schools flocked to visit this concept school that Sajid’s team had to start an incubation center to train and mentor schools and their faculty in experiential learning. This initiative is decorated with long list of awards and recognition, but he still thinks it is still long way.

While Sajid is on his journey to achieve success in uncharted territory of Indian rural education, and as expected from an Indian guy, he does not have a job, he does not stay at one place; he is taking initiative in education sector which is not as hot as any other IT startup. As a result he doesn’t qualify matrimonial criteria, “No girl wants to marry me because I don’t have a job”, Sajid says with a very peculiar wide smile, he knows he has taken unconventional route.

I met Sajid after 4 long years, we were in touch and I followed all of the achievements of his school. After getting numerous awards, recognition and invitation in most reputed institutions across India his initiative has evolved. He is now a known name in experiential learning and rural education. His school has collaborated with TIFR and other reputed institutes to setup science labs for kids. His idea of “learning by doing” has attracted lots of attention in education sector, there were stories in media channels covering how students are engineering solutions for rural issues through innovation.

When I told him I stayed put in an IT job from last 8 years, he said “we are underestimating ourselves” with disappointment. While I went on developing engineering solutions to be used by wealthy industries, this guy from room no 313, N-Block hostel revamped the idea of education in rural India. His school and initiatives are bringing urban talent to these fundamental issues of education which has been ignored from last 70 years. His plans to setup a call center for rural schools to give guidance on education will benefit huge rural population with a method of education which was never possible before. He left me thinking how much can be done if there is a will to bring a change.

“Teachers need support and engagement. They don’t want Workshops and training, which for them is extra burden. They need engagement, continuous engagement. They need support for their work in a classroom, to make learning exciting and experiential for their students. From CLEQi we want to redistribute the teachers’ works, if teachers have 10 jobs to do then we want to do 3 jobs for them and expect 7 other jobs to be done by teachers effectively.”

This idea from 10 years ago has flourished in to working community which is trying to bring change at grass-root level in literal sense.

Friend 2: An ideal model of Selfless Service – Mohammed Sajid Hussain

You would have come across hundreds of self proclaimed deshbhakts who themselves dream the European dream but judge other’s patriotism through their unverified binary litmus shades. And at the slightest opportunity, flee the country leaving behind high-spirited-show-off patriotism in the name of ‘career’, never to remember the mata or mataram ever again.

And you would be pleasantly surprised to know that in such a hypocritical environment, there are genuine patriots who prove to be true sons-of-the-soil through sincere selfless service to the motherland and not just through high-decibel slogans.

I want you to meet our young friend Mohammed Sajid Husain.

Hailing from a little known remote place called Chattarpur, Ramgarh from the backward state of Jharkand, this young man has been immensely blessed with talents and skills that like any other upwardly-mobile ambitious professional,  he can very well settle for a plum high-profile corner office in the corporate giants like Microsoft and Google. On the contrary, Sajid chose selfless service instead of high salary. Before tuning into his real achievements, it would be interesting to checkout his academic credentials as well.

After passing out of a Madrasa and inter mediate, Sajid completed engineering from BIT (Sindri) followed by a stellar 55th All India rank in the GATE entrance exam and completing his Masters from the top ranking PG institute of the country, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru. Thereafter, he pursued PhD from Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany. He has presented research papers at reputed institutes of Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Slovakia, Scotland and other European institutes along with many research publications in International Journals to his credit.

He has served as Material Research Scientist at the prestigious National Aerospace, Bengaluru and top German research firms. Sajid’s is a high-profile career graph which millions dream, but only a handful can achieve.

On a quiet day in his office in Germany, Sajid came to think of a poser, “How does my country and my village benefit from my immense talents and skills? Will I expend myself earning millions of Euros far away from the country like this?” It didn’t take him long to search for an answer.

At this critical turning point in an illustrious career, where money, name and fame are abundant, Sajid rather made an unusual move. He decided to transfer his talents and skills to the meritorious students from his native place who, despite having talent, do not make it big owing to lack of support mechanisms.

Sajid headed to his roots with a vision to serve the motherland.  And then came into existence a unique institute……              A Laboratory School!!

This wasn’t another money-minting corporate school, nor their country-cousin semi-corporate institute, nay another sinking Government school.

God help our outdated education models, on one extreme are the corporate schools which prioritize business and show-off in the name of education, and on the other hand, government schools radiate politics and hollowness.

Sajid explains that his model inculcates creative talents, computational and critical thinking in students through experiments. Where there is lesser burden of books and more fun of the laboratories. Here, a biology class is not conducted inside the four walls of a classroom, but in an orchard, farm or field and alongside animals in a zoo. If you come across uniformed students dissecting a scooter’s engine, playing with the potter’s wheel and pottery, honing their skills in handicrafts and digging deep in the complex electronic circuitry, then do not panic, these are the everyday affairs of this new Laboratory school concept.

How did he come across this idea? Sajid says “I want to transform the education system right from the grassroots. I believe that we remember whatever we did practically in our school days, not the things taught in the classrooms”.

This vision led to the formation of the Laboratory school.

The visionary concept of Laboratory school got the much needed boost when two of his IIT and IIM friends joined his project.  Their startup venture Opal Eduventures proved its mettle pretty soon. Creating an educational model based on experimentation, technology and results and taking these resources to the villages and remote areas of the state are their core objectives. They even have a fellowship programme for this.

Amazing results by the students and schools under this project have quickly demonstrated the proof-of-concept of this unique vision.

Anas, an 11 year old, inspired from an IIT project, developed a computer game. An overwhelming 65 students participated in the International Mathematic Olympiad, 18 of them securing medals, including one Amir, an 11 year old, who studies by the day and sells milk till late by the night. Another kid wrote three volumes of comics for children.

Their unique vision and its success was quickly recognised and celebrated at the national level. The startup was awarded 7th best startup company under the Startup India program in 2018 at the hands of the Chief Minister. Several reputed organisations and NGOs have also recognised and appreciated this concept by conferring many awards.

This three year old infant startup of Sajid Husain has started an educational revolution in his area, it’s not just an institute, but an institution in itself.

Sajid’s story is not just a story of achievement, but…

1) Its a unique model of selfless service, which distinguishes between hollow slogans of patriotism and genuine spirit of service to the motherland. Our youth need not pay heed to the fake jumlas of the public leaders; rather take pride in giving back to the nation as they have been doing.

2) Its a perfect example of vision and execution. How could a 33 year old take such a challenging decision which could put his entire hard earned career at risk?

I quip Sajid, “is there a shortage of thinkers and professionals in this country? But such dedication comes only from “idiots” like you!!”

3) If you have spirit of service and learning, then educational background doesn’t become a hurdle. What would an engineer probably know about the field of education and academics? Sajid says finding a solution is your job and competence, if there is a will to find one, and then be it a technical problem or societal, you will definite find a solution.

4) It is also a message to those parents who are hell bent on turning their kids into bookworms and pushing them hard in this rat race of shiny careers. Whereas, psychologist argue that the real personality development happens only through extracurricular activities. Sajid has proven that pious organisations and its student’s service is not just ‘character building’ but also ‘career building’ and ‘society building’ as well.

Fid duniya hasantaw wa fil aakhirati hasana (Success here and hereafter)

5)There is no dearth of talent and ambition in the youth of this nation. Most of the times, our school management, laziness/ carelessness of teachers, collective ignorance of parents and society lead to wasting of our priceless talents. If each city finds it own Sajid then we shall know that….

 Fitrat ne ‘hamein’ baqshe hain johar malkuti (Iqbal )

(From the Facebook wall of Br. Shujat Husaini. Its translation was published in Urdu daily of Hyderabad.)

Friend 3: Br. Farhan Sumbul wrote a piece in The Companion:

Shahzaan Numair, class 3 student of sleepy census town Chitarpur has scored 3rd rank in Jharkhand and 286th rank globally in International GK Olympiad and is standing smiling. Ashwini, also from Chitarpur had qualified to participate in International Maths Olympiad early in 2018. Neither Shahzaan nor Ashwini are the students of some posh English medium schools.  And these are not the isolated stories of success, but a generation is being shaped at Mount Everest Public School founded in year 2015 by Sajid Hussain of the same town. An engineering graduate from BIT Sindri Jharkhand, Sajid Hussain holds Masters degree from prestigious Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and is also a recipient of Marie Curie Scholarship at Europe.  He quit his job at National Aerospace Laboratories Bangalore to start his innovations in the field of education.

When enquired about this decision of quitting his job and starting a school at his town, Sajid said that it was the experiences of his school days itself which urged him to come back to his hometown and work in the field of education. His idea is to make more laboratories than classrooms in his school.

According to Sajid education is the only thing which can connect various communities and tribes living in India. Sajid’s long term plan is to make more laboratories than classrooms. He also wants to alter the process of teaching where students will change their classrooms/laboratories every time school bell rings. Sajid believes in providing learning materials at the lowest cost so that even poorer of the society can be given every lesson of modern education and money should not become a hindrance.

Nearly 900+ students are enrolled in the school currently of which 70 percent students come from the low income families. A huge number of tribal and other backward community students are also enrolled in the school and are making their future bright.

Now I share my conversation with Mr. Sajid in which he responded to my questions.

 Sajid what made you start an alternative schooling?

Experiential learning has been the talking point of academia for the past hundred years. However, our education system in general and rural school education in particular is far from adopting this, arguably one of the best pedagogical practices, into the curriculum. Rural and tribal lifestyles are very close to nature and revolve around forests, fields and cattle. Yet, environmentalists, naturalists and ecologists have struggled to convince the rural populace to continue traditional farming and natural lifestyles (now given the new name “organic farming”). One reason for this could be attributed to the fact that the present education system offers our children academic certificates as mere passports for the dream of a respectable career in glittering cities.

To address these concerns we started doing our bit at Schoolasium – EdHub (Mount Everest Public School) in 2015. We engage in experiment based learning and project based learning through establishing connections between text, context and the surroundings. In this way we convert the school and it’s surrounding into learning spaces (e.g. monuments, ponds, rivers, forests, fields, cattle herds, hospitals, and post offices etc.). We try to make learning handson with locally available materials. Our children make clay pots, robots, woodwork and many more such items.

How you are going to engage students who have interest in Sciences?

Another approach that we designed is that of a Machine at My Place (MaMP) which integrates gadgets with everyday life. The reason behind this idea is that since our day to day life is being managed and controlled by bots and gadgets, it appears essential for children to understand the science of gadgets and robots. The OAL allows students to tinker with machines.

Additionally, to nurture the Imagination and Creativity (I&C) of students, we have been practising a new technique where students have the space to ponder, think critically and create their own text based on their imagination. The uniqueness of our initiative lies in the fact that we are developing and practicing these pedagogic methods and tools in an environment with extremely limited resources in tribal and rural areas of Jharkhand.

How fast you are moving to achieve your goal?

Since inception it was envisioned that we will address the experiential learning of other part of Jharkhand & Bihar and India through developing the practical model. Now after four years, what we have developed and practiced at our centre, now we are scaling up to other parts of Jharkhand & Bihar and also to the other parts of India, and for this we have recently established a centre called “Centre for Learning Engagement and Quality improvement (CLEQi)”.

To nurture the rural school’s vibrant learning ecosystem, we started the “Schoolasium Educators Fellowship (SEF)” program to support capacity building of school teachers, and graduate students and professional who have passion to work on rural education. Objective of fellowship program is to create a local resource person for hands-on learning.

Do you feel your initiative is a Startup incubator in the field of Education?

Yes, but not to earn money but to prepare human resource to develop the nation. Our vision is to create the school campus as a school incubator center with a mission to support low income private schools and government schools in making vibrant learning ecosystem to school campus.

What is your future plan with this startup initiative?

We are developing in-house STEAM based curriculum, which is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in five specific disciplines — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach.

What were you before starting Mount Everest Public School in Chitrapur?

Challenging career in industry, R & D and education sector with more than eight years experience on materials manufacturing, development of new materials, characterization, fracture and damage mechanics, modelling materials, developing sustainable active learning eco-system and capacity development of resource persons to deliver the customers need utmost satisfaction. Carrying research as per international standards through publishing research papers at national and international peer reviewed conferences and Journals.

I worked as a Researcher (2013 –2016) – CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories, Bangalore, India, worked as an Early Stage Researcher (2011 -2012) – IFW, Technical University Braunschweig, Germany, worked as a Senior Engineer (2008-2009) – JSW Steel Ltd, Mumbai, India and also worked as a consultant in many startup companies.

With having huge background of experience in field of science, when asked what you are now, Mr. Sajid with humble voice and sweet smiles says I am, “Founder of Schoolasium-EdHub (Established -2015), Mount Everest Public School, Chitarpur, Jharkhand and Co-founder Opal eduventure Pvt. Ltd.

Mr. Sajid completed his Bachelor degree in Metallurgical Engineering (2004-2008) from Birsa Institute of Technology (BIT) Sindri, Dhanbad, and completed Master in Materials Engineering from Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.

Apart from academic and research field, when he started contributing to society, various organizations felicitated Mr. Sajid. He was the winner of top 11 startup award for 2018 by Government of Jharkhand, role model award by Kawish Foundation Mumbai, 2018.

He got CSIR Senior Research Fellowship and Curie Fellowship (Framework Programme7, Germany) in 2011-2012 and won 1st prize in Ramgarh district quiz contest. Apart from all these he earned medals in various athletic competitions also.

People who are interested to collaborate and join hands with Mr. Sajid Hussain to reconstruct the society at larger level can reach him at [email protected]. School managements who wants to train their teachers and establish the lab with low or no cost can also approach Mr. Sajid and his team.