All around us are strong women who have taken their passion and love for something to create strong legacies, and one such lady is Ms Naseem Iqbal --more often recognised as just Iqbal Miss by her students over the years-- administrator and founder of the Universal Tutorial school.
The school started off in 1978 with just 3 students, two of which were her own children. The campus, tucked inconspicuously behind a plain gate to a seemingly old house on the main road approaching Bangla Motor intersection from Moghbazar, has been home to Universal Tutorial for over 30 years, holding many a now-grown-up's cherished childhood memories.
“I always thought that I should have a school, since childhood,” Iqbal said, adding, “when we started, this was the only English Medium in this area.”
The school is still quite small in terms of the size of the student body, which stands at 150, even though it used to be larger, and has the capacity to accommodate at least thrice the current numbers. Iqbal says the competition has been getting tougher, since the introduction of English Version schools, at the junior level, and from coaching centres at the senior. “Senior level children now prefer the freedom and complete lack of school discipline that the coaching centres allow.”
“But my O and A Level batches, though small in number, are doing well, and I am happy,” she added.
There is no discrimination in student intake as well, as students of varying levels of capabilities are all taught in the same classes, only with extra care, whenever needed, she said.
“We currently have about 36 teachers on the staff, and the teacher to student ratio is very healthy,” Iqbal said.
The curriculum offered at Universal Tutorial is quite well rounded, with English, various papers of Maths, Sciences, Accounting, Computer Science and Bangladesh Studies. The students also have extracurricular clubs like debate, karate, sewing, arts and dance.
Asked about how she balanced her roles as administrator and teacher at the school, and raising three children, and making a home for her family, Iqbal said her husband had always been very supportive of her endeavours.
While visiting the campus, which includes a sizable yard and secure space for the youngsters to run around freely, we came across some children running around happily. When asked the cliché but obvious question of their favourite subject, a surprising answer was “reading time,” a specially designated period where the children take books from the in-house library and sit down to read. Students can also have each book issued to them for a week.
“Our aim at Universal Tutorial has always been to provide quality education,” said Mueenuddin Ahmad, Iqbal's longstanding colleague of two and a half decades.
“Her perseverance is praiseworthy,” he added, on Iqbal's continued determination to keep the school running despite the current challenges.
Iqbal said that most of her teachers had been with her for long periods, and turnover is really low.
Some students have come back in new avatars, and currently teach at Universal Tutorial, like Fauqia Baig, who has been working there for 6 years. “Iqbal Miss is my inspiration on how to be a perfect person, she is like a mother hen. The workload she takes even now is very commendable.”
The entire school, students and teachers, also go for an annual picnic to different places outside the city—always an opportunity for some extra fun and de-stressing.
Iqbal Miss has another passion apart from her precious school—that of growing exotic orchids. She is the founder and president of Orchid Society of Bangladesh. It appears she nurtures her school children the same way she does her delicate blooms—with utmost care and dedication.