This I-Day, The Quint celebrates India's unique syncretic culture via stories of unity, love, and music from across the country. You can support this campaign by becoming a Q-Insider, so we can continue to tell the stories that matter.
Reporter & Cameraperson: Debayan Dutta
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Alexa play Masti Ki Pathshala, because we are at Ananda Siksha Niketan, the school of joyful learning. Situated in the remote area of West Bengal, this school not only provides free education to underprivileged kids but also bridges religious gaps.
Located in West Bengal's Beldanga, this school is established in 2002 by Babar Ali. He was also declared ''World's Youngest Headmaster'' by BBC in 2009.
Back in 2002, the school was started from Babar Ali's backyard where he began teaching 8 kids, including his own sister. At the age when all we do is watch our favourite cartoons or play after school, Babar Ali decided to bring neighbourhood kids together and teach them what he learnt from school which was located 10 kilometres away from his home. He did all this when he was just 9-years-old.
The kids who might have been thrown into menial jobs to earn for the family are today, thanks to Babar's relentless efforts, getting quality education. Being a teacher, businessman, nurse or a police officer are some of the choices on the spectrum of students' aspirations studying in this school.
Focusing on value-based education, Babar Ali's vison is to provide educational space which develops one's moral values. Babar believes this leads to character formation with the aim of inculcating values of secularism among students in the classroom space where their questions are addressed and curiosity is encouraged.
Every educator has a role to teach students that we are equal. We don't have any division. We should respect each other. Our first identity is that we are human beings.Babar Ali, Headmaster, Ananda Siksha Niketan
The scarcity of schools, or ones with non availability of infrastructure or basic necessities related to teaching in rural India, is an undeniable fact.
With the aim of joyful learning and equal opportunities to all, Babar Ali's school provides free learning kits, tiffins and uniforms. All of them without any support from central or state government and just by the donations from well-wishers across the country.
When I started my mission, there was a strong reservation in the society to send female children. Now, at our institution, 60% are girls. Women's education is important so that they can change our society. They can play a great role to change our society.Babar Ali, Headmaster, Ananda Siksha Niketan
The school, which started with 8 kids, now has successfully graduated 8000 students so far. At present, the school has 10 teachers who are also former students of this school working on honorary basis.
Babar Ali proved that there is no age barrier for doing something for the society. It's just the matter of spirit in order to make a difference.
With India completing 75 years of Independence, The Quint is celebrating the soul of the country – its secularism. We are bringing stories of unity, love, and music from across India in our month-long campaign, SeculaRhythm.
What does a Secular India mean to you?
Send your stories, ideas, poems, and art at email@example.com, and celebrate India's SecluaRhythm with The Quint.