Putting Her Through School
THIS is an example of a father's successful endeavour to educate his daughter in the 1950s. Dr. Fakir Mohammed Munshi strongly valued education and even though it was beyond his means, decided he would educate his daughter somehow.
Nothing went smooth for Fakir Mohammed. He hailed from the village of Purura in Shreebardi, a frontier Upazila in Sherpur district. He faced a lot of opposition when he set off to try to secure an education for his young daughter.
Under quite a hostile climate, Fatema completed her primary level education from Purura Primary School. Later she was admitted to Shreebardi Akbaria School, some three kilometers away from her house. Fakir Mohammed was being criticised for this a lot but he was not so nervous about these elements of society. He was looking for a good school in his district but there was no such school with hostel facilities for females in Sherpur, so he came to Mymensingh town with his daughter in 1946 and visited the girls' schools there. He liked the hostels at Vidyamayee School and wanted to get his daughter admitted there.
Fatema Akhtar Khatun, now 77 years old and a retired school teacher, recalls those days. She says that her father moved with her all over the place but still could not secure admission for her. Finally Vidyamayee School and the academic atmosphere there charmed him and the school admitted her after hearing about her father's dedication. There was no other Muslim girl in the hostel at that time, so this became a problem for her, Fatema said. The religious teacher of the school, Maulana Noor Uddin Ahmed hailed from Chandra in Jamalpur. He requested the school to make sure things were ok for this Muslim girl.
A Muslim woman called Lailir Maa was also managed from Shankipara in the district town to serve as a cook and a separate room was also allotted for her, said Fatema. Thus Dr. Fakir Mohammed considered himself successful in his mission and returned to Sherpur satisfied. Later Fatema Akhtar Khatun passed her matriculation from this school in 1951 with credit. But later many Muslim guardians sent their girls from in and outside the district to the school and to stay at the hostel. In a matter of five years, the number of Muslim girls in the hostel rose to over 60, she said.
Fatema was married off to MM Ferdousi in Mymensingh town in 1951. Later she joined Radhashundari Girls' School as an Assistant Teacher in the town and served there for about a year. The she joined the Muslim Girls' High School in 1957 and continued her service there until retirement in 1995.
Blessed with five sons- Reazul Mustafee, Mustafa Kamal, Farid Ahmed Dulal, a well-known poet of greater Mymensingh, Mustafizur Rahman Raju and Toufiqur Rahman Babu and a daughter Shahnaz Farida Ferdousi Mala, Fatema Akhtar now resides in the district town.
Recalling her school days, Fatema Akhtar said her father's dedication could be an example to many and that she was very fond of her school days. She nostalgically remembers, for example, that when the school arranged a feast for the students, fish was caught from the large pond in front of the school building. She added that the feeling of remembering those days was hard to describe in words. Nowadays, she passes her time reading books and with her grandchildren.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009