Accelerating the Nation-Building Process
August 2014

Accelerating the Nation-Building Process

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38-39 - ERDFDespite receiving several lucrative offers, Mahbubul Hoque decided to begin his career as an educational entrepreneur. In 2001, he established the Education Research and Development Foundation (ERDF), Guwahati, with an inspiration to spread education to every nook and corner of society irrespective of caste, creed and religion. ENN tracks the journey

Having lost his parents at an early age, Mahbubul Hoque led a turbulent life since childhood. Managing his educational expenses by taking tuitions, he passed his matricula- 38 August 2014 / digitalLEARNING tion with high marks, graduated from GC College, Silchar and went on to complete his MCA from Aligarh Muslim University. With a strong determination to change the educational scenario of the north-eastern region, he decided to begin his career as an educational entrepreneur despite having received lucrative job offers from multi-nations in India and abroad. He established the Central IT college in 2001 and began operations with just one computer and four students. For the purpose of generating funds, Mahbubul even had to assemble computers.
However, with the mission clear in his head, Mahbubul founded the Educational Research and Development Foundation (ERDF) that enabled him to achieve new milestones in the field of educational infrastructure. He established the Regional College of Higher Education in 2007, a professional college affiliated to North Eastern Hill University, Shillong. This institute has secured top positions in all examinations conducted by NEHU. In an attempt to enable rural education capture new heights in the remotest parts of Assam, he further set up two Central public schools affiliated to the CBSE in Karimganj, his home town. His endeavours did not stop here, and in 2009, he went on to establish the Regional Institute of Science and Technology (RIST), a state-of-the-art engineering college approved by the AICTE and affiliated to NEHU, Shillong.
His dream project of the University of Science and Technology in Meghalaya where he serves as Chancellor, how- ever, was realised only when the Legislative Assembly of Meghalaya enacted the 2011 USTM Act. Through focussed studies conducted by leading academicians and scientists on the educational needs of the region, the university looms set to transform the north-east into a tech-savvy region. ERDF has also been working towards capacity-building among young graduates aspiring for the IAS, GATE, NET and other competitive examinations conducted by the UPSC and other government agencies. The Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Centre for Coaching and Guidance and ‘HOQUE 20’ are steps in this very direction. The philosophy behind setting up ERDF was to produce quality manpower that can uplift the region and accelerate the nation-building process. This, the founder believes, can be achieved through streamlining education from KG to PG, promoting research, science and technical education and developing strong leadership.
Prior to the time when the institute came into existence, there were hardly any options available for professional courses in the region. As a result, these institutions today are educating students right from the KG level up to the university. Domains of the academic programme are CBSE affiliated till class tenth and for twelfth in science and commerce. Other courses include engineering, management, computer science, biotechnology, applied sciences, environmental sciences, electronics, sociology, public administration, disaster management, education, psychology, economics, rural development, social work and library and information sciences. Engineering, biotecnology and management are the most sought after courses in the university that has a total student strength of 5,000 as compared to the four students they started with. The total faculty strength also stands at an impressive 270.
Educating girls, especially among the minority communities, has been a challenge not just for the government, but also for institutes. The prevalence of the social evils such as child and early marriage of girls in minority families both among the educated and nonedbeen possible through the encourageucated class prevents girls from getting higher education. To break this barrier, ERDF has started a women’s college in a minority-concentrated district of Assam. This, the founder says, has only been possible through the encourage ment of the Committee on Girls’ Eduction, National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI).
In further impetus to promoting education, the university provides 100 per cent tuition fee waiver for students of families below poverty line, and 33 per cent reservation for girls in all educational institutions. There is also a merit-cummeans scholarship for female students. The ratio of boys and girls in ERDF institutions stands at a healthy 4:6.

The Challenges

Attracting best talent, both in terms of student intake as well as faculty and administrative positions, is quite a challenge for any newlyformed institution. However, in the case of institutes under ERDF, not only have they been able to attract a core group of dedicated and talented persons matching industry standards, they have also managed to retain these people. Interfacing with the industry and maintaining effective linkages with all stakeholders has been a hallmark for the ERDF group of institutions. Formal tie-ups, MOUs as well as informal links are established with R&D institutions, industries both at the national and state level to accommodate training and development, internship, project works and field studies for our students. The university is also in the process of getting more collaborations with US-based universities and organisations for higher education and placements. Placing freshers today is indeed a big challenge. However, with the appropriate internship programmes and field exposures, grooming and soft skills training, ERDF has been largely successful in this department.

“The prevalence of the social evils such as child and early marriage of girls in minority families both among the educated and non-educated class prevents girls from getting higher education”

ERDF VISION 2016:

  • To set up a centralised women’s hostel with library and coaching facilities for administrative services.
  • To set up eight new CBSE- affiliated schools in the rural minority dominated areas
  • To set up two coach- ing and career guidance centres for administrative services, employment and admission at Barak Valley and Guwahati.
  • Two ITI s for women

 “We are in a very positive mode, and after a long time in India, we have a government which appears to be striking the right chord, cutting across all sections of the society” says ERDF founder Mahbubul Hoque. This has been reflected in the recent budget that emphasised on Madrasa modernisation. “It is a very good initiative, but we also have to take into account the fact that only three to four percent students are going to Madrasas. A major chunk of children either drop out from schools or do not go at all,” he adds. Focussed initiatives from the government and an emphasis on general education in minority-dominated areas through establishing quality need-based institutions could indeed go a long way in improving access of education for those who need it the most.

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