With an ambition of working towards creating job opportunities for young talented boys and girls in Kashmir, Ajaz Masoodi treaded a path of self-employment despite all odds he worked hard to make a name in the private education sector of Kashmir by giving up his government job.
He left a well-paid government job to set-up a private school in north Kashmir, the decision pitted him against his family who were not in favor of this move.
At first his family did not accept the decision of leaving government job to set up a private school but Masoodi had made his mind to go with the decision and almost after two decades ‘Nether Field’ school has now become a brand to reckon with in the entire North Kashmir.
In his mid 40’s, Masoodi has navigated through ups and downs of life, left a lecturer job to set up a school in Sopore where 150 people including teachers, non teaching staff, drivers, conductors and gardeners are drawing salaries of more than 15 lakh per month.
“After doing a Masters in English from University of Kashmir in the year 1995, I came across that most of the mature students of our vicinity could not even read English properly. It is when I decided to do something for those students who were not well versed with the English language,” Masoodi said.
“I had some earnings with which I made some posters and started an English learning institute namely ‘Bright Star’. During the first year only six students enrolled for the language course. As I did not have any financial support from my family I managed to buy some chairs and a blackboard out of the advance payment made by the students as fee,” he added.
“During the course of time my name and fame had spread all across Sopore town with the result fifty odd students did enroll at ‘Bright Star’ for the next batch to learn an English speaking course,” Masoodi said.
“After teaching at the institute for one year I was appointed as a lecturer in the education department and joined Bonyar Higher Secondary where I taught for six months. Here I realized that I should dedicate myself to make north Kashmir students learn the English language. Since it was not an internet age then, the only source one could learn was from teachers,” he said.
“In September 1997 I resigned from a government job for which I had to face stiff resistance from my family but I moved on. I still remember the then Chief Education Officer (CEO) Baramulla Malik Sahab asked me to review my decision but I had made up my mind to abandon the job,” Ajaz said.
“I realized that most of the students who come to learn the English language are mature. I thought that it would be better to come up with such a school where young buds would be taught English at a very early age,” said Masoodi.
“With the consultation of senior educationists I started ‘Nether Field’ school in a rented building at Bohripora Sopore with only a handful of students. I had to bear a loss of twenty four thousand rupees per month on transport and salary of teachers every month.”
“I used to compensate for the loss from coaching as I was generating good revenue from there. During the onset of second year we received fifty six new admissions at Nether Field School (NFS) which really paved the way for my success,” said Masoodi.
“And the next year we received five hundred new admission applications but due to lack of space we could entertain only one hundred and fifty new entrants. As the school was functioning in a rented building at Bohripora, I had to occupy the whole building for want of more space.”
“Then came the big day when a parent approached me and offered ten kanals of land for the construction of a school building. I had to manage the amount and ultimately bought the land. In the year 2002 the construction work started and with many parents coming forward for donations I could manage to complete the building in less than a year,”.
“I still remember when I could hardly manage the amount to buy the ten kanals of land and look presently NFS owns sixty nine kanals land with six buildings comprising eighty seven classrooms. The school also owns twenty four buses to ferry the students to-and-fro from school to their residences.”
Masoodi is intending to upgrade the school up to 12th class for which the process is already in place. “Had Covid restrictions not been in place since the last two years, we would have definitely upgraded it to the next level”. He is hopeful to set up a separate women college and an engineering college in future.
He said that due to the prevailing crisis it was really tough for the budget schools to survive. He appealed to parents to cooperate with schools in this difficult time so that the future of the students could be saved.
Masoodi termed Covid vaccination between the age group of 2-18 a welcome step. He said that the vaccination for this age group should be taken in hand at the earliest so that schools may not be closed in future.