Dreams Take Flight: KECT Nurtures the Poor’s Passport to the Future

Unique initiatives such as tailored English curriculum, women empowerment programs and thorough socio-economic screening set KECT Academy apart in its endeavor to create a brighter future for the marginalized

Kolkata: The dusty, bumpy roads that run alongside the garbage strewn along the length of the canal that lead you to Gulshan Colony, Uttar Panchchanna gram.

The under-construction building greets you as you walk into one of the many serpentine-like lanes, looking for the KECT Academy – the academic wing of the Kolkata Educational and Charitable Trust (KECT) that aims to provide the best education to the ‘filtered poor’ of the city.

The building that houses the school, which as of now has classes functional up to standard VII, is a residential one, but when you walk into the few thousand square feet owned by the KECT trust, you are transported into classrooms that boast of new-age teaching tools, technology, infrastructure and a healthy teacher-student ratio. 

But what strikes you the most is the dream-filled eyes of kids, who hail from families that have been pushed out of Kolkata in search of cheaper accommodation and life.

“I want to be a writer,” says Asiya, a class V student of KECT Academy. Her father works as a daily labour in a shoe factory, while her mother is a homemaker. This young girl speaks impeccable English. On being asked what inspires her to write she says, “I was browsing through some videos in my mother’s mobile phone when I came across a video in which a girl was telling that she has written several short stories. I thought, if she can, then why can’t I?”

“I have written 41 stories to date,” informs Asiya, who prefers to be called by her first name only. Her friends, sitting behind her, pushed forward a notebook which had some interesting stories that were inspired by her dreams, aspirations and the poverty that surrounded her.  

The story of Asiya is similar to that of almost all students admitted into the Academy, which aims to be the wind under the wings of these kids, who want to be writers, doctors, teachers, police and even IAS officers. 

kect academy kolkata education poor underprivileged students
A KECT girl show her work | Courtesy:

The story of KECT Academy

The story goes back to the early Nineties when a group of youngsters began the Friends of Education Society, which aimed to urge the youngsters back then to crack civil examinations. They even conducted tutorial classes for those interested in availing their academic services.

“Many cracked the civil service exam, just like I did. Then we got busy with our career, only to realise later, that we still have an unrequited dream – to provide good education to the poorest among the poor,” recalled Shakil Ahmed, one of the founders and trustee of KECT.

On being asked, why they chose to start the academy in Uttar Panchanna’s Gulshan Colony, SM Kalimuddin, former DCP, Kolkata replied, “This place is a mushrooming concrete jungle, which is home to the filtered poor of the society. There are no good schools for the kids of the daily wage earners residing in this locality. So, we set up this academy with the sole intention of providing education, skills, values and support to kids hailing from families with financial constraints so that they can achieve their true potential.”

Adding to that, trustee Manzar Jameel mentioned, “The trustee panel comprising 10 members has a vision of providing the best education to the poorest of the poor. This is our way of empowering the future generation so that they can lead the next generation.”

“Our journey would have been incomplete, we didn’t have trustees like Namroz Ahmed Khan ex DC DD 11, industrialist Shakil Ahmed, Zahir Ahmed Hashmi, Imtiyaz Adil and Jamshed Alam in our panel,” added Jameel

What makes KECT Academy unique?

The trust not only ensures free classroom teaching but also provides the uniform, school shoes, text and exercise books, stationery and even healthy snacks to those enrolled with the academy.

“We do a complete background check of those applying for admission as we don’t want the money of our donors to get wasted. So, we have our teachers go and survey the applicant’s socio-economic condition. Based on this report, we proceed with the admission procedure. First preference is given to single-parent kids or applicants who have been deserted and then to the poorest among the applicants,” informed Ahmed.

Once the screening is done the parents are counseled on how to take care of their child’s academic needs.

“We offer remedial classes for students who are unable to cope with the classroom pressure. We have workshops and sessions to groom each of our children,” informed Shehnila Khalid, teacher-in-charge at the KECT Academy.

Aratrika Mondal, a Teach for India fellow, who has been working with Academy’s students for almost a year now, feels, “Each child in this classroom has the potential to soar high in their lives. We offer a well-tailored English curriculum, which focuses on improving the diction and writing skills of the students.”

What’s more interesting is the fact that the academy even chooses to empower women who have kids enrolled with the school. One such example is Dhanpati Devi, who works as a group D staff in the academy. “I have two children and both study here. My husband is a driver and we were having great difficulty in making ends meet. I met the trustees and they have helped me in the best possible way to be financially independent.”

The road ahead

Ahmed also explained KECT’s vision, “We aspire to at least have a full-fledged school offering free education till standard XII and then eventually initiate an engineering college for the underprivileged. We plan to have a school building of our own soon. We are following the CBSE curriculum as of now. ”

And how do you get funds to run the academy? To that Iftekhar Adil, another trustee,said, “We run the institution on public funds. Zakat donation is used to fund the expenses of books, clothes among others, while the non-zakat donations are used for infrastructure development.”

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