The Daily Star honours: Abdur Rashid, the man who gave it all for the children
Abdur Rashid, 61, a marginal farmer in the remote village of Dakkhin Dalgram under Kaliganj upazila in Lalmonirhat, gave up more than half of the only land he ever had to set up a school for children with special needs.
In 2011, he gave up 20 decimal of his 35 decimal homestead land, situated about 40 kilometres away from the district headquarters.
For close to a decade, he has been running the school, "Kaliganj Pratibandhi Bidyalay", with support from locals and specialised teachers who volunteer.
The school has more than 200 children, many of whom are visually-impaired or have some disabilities. But all them receive education, empowering them to meet the future head on.
Abdur Rashid, whose generosity cannot be explained in words only, earns his livelihood by cultivating crops and vegetables. He is married with two daughters, who too have been married.
The eldest of ten siblings, Rashid grew up amid poverty and managed to study up to the 10th grade.
In that time, measuring between what education he received and what he could he could have, Abdur realised the importance of knowledge. He then noticed the children with special needs in his village who had not outlet to learn.
His conscience awoken, Abdur decided it was time to take matters into his own hand.
He built the school house using bamboo, corrugated iron, wood and ropes provided by the villagers. The educated among the locals also came forward to support Rashid's initiative and they have been volunteering at the school.
"I spend four to five hours in the school every day. When I sit with the children and teach them something new, they become extremely happy. It makes me happy too," Rashid said, adding that the time he spent with the children gave him an unparalleled sense of peace.
"Abdur Rashid always makes my 12-year-old daughter smile. It's a nice feeling to see your daughter smile and learn happily," said Selina Begum, 32, parent of a student.
"Many parents like me bring their children with special needs from remote villages to the school. Abdur Rashid has become a visionary for our children's development. We now harbour great dreams for our children," she added.
"Many special children who studied in this school earlier are now studying in the 10th grade in other schools. At present, we are teaching the students here up to fifth grade," Rashid told The Daily Star.
"When the children are busy reading, I read with them. When they laugh, it brings a smile to my face."
At present, Abdur looks after the day-to-day matters related to the school on his own. Occasionally, he seeks support from neighbours and relatives. His school has been expanding and the expenses are also increasing. But Abdur remains relentless in his pursuit.
"I will continue to run this school even if I have to sell the last of my assets," Rashid added.