[report by Prasanta Kr Chakravarty]
Mohammad Alauddin of Vaitkandi village in Phulpur thana of Mymensingh District is a man dedicated to the Nijera Shikhi movement and now devoting practically the whole of his life to the promotion of self-education. In 1995 he was introduced to Nijera Shikhi by Kari Saheb of Dharabazar in Haluaghat and becoming convinced that it is impossible to rid the country of illiteracy without thousands of literate people giving voluntary service, he filled in a form offering to be a Nijera Shikhi voluntary Organiser. He was duly enrolled. He went to the Self-training Workshop for Organisers in the Dharabazar area, and went back home fired with zeal and enthusiasm.
At first he found no local interest and couldn’t start the Nijera Shikhi system. At the same time he caught an eye disease which nearly destroyed his eyesight. Even so he didn’t give up. All the time he kept looking for a chance to begin a literacy programme. Eventually he won over another man to work with him, Mr Mojid. He too became very keen and together they began to visit different villages, arousing people with the Nijera Shikhi message. Often it was very dark and with a torch-light they made their way from village to village stirring up interest. Villagers who are desperately poor are out getting work where they can during the day, and are only available at night-time. Alauddin would spend time talking to them and recruiting what few literate villagers there were to be Organisers to get literacy classes started. He encouraged them in training sessions.
When Union Porishods (Councils) have decided to start on their illiteracy eradication programmes, Alauddin has come forward and helped the Chairmen to understand and follow the Nijera Shikhi system. Vaitkandi Chundhora and Singheswar Unions have all announced their intention of making their Unions - each with about 12 villages - illiteracy free zones.
Md Alauddin and Md Mojid also got the three Chairmen of these Unions to hold a public meeting to launch the literacy programme. Nijera Shikhi Consultant John Hastings came 140 miles by bus from Dhaka to speak at this meeting, and urged the many hundreds present to cooperate to abolish illiteracy.
After this, Alauddin’s activities increased even more. It is through his efforts that the classes in all three Unions have got going. Day and night he is out visiting the classes which have started, encouraging the Helpers, collecting funds for new classes, recruiting more Organisers and keeping contact with the UP Chairmen. He has also approached the Chairmen of other Union Councils to start the programme.
Alauddin is not just a person giving voluntary service. He spends from his own pocket to set up meetings with everyone and help them to get started. Whenever a Nijera Shikhi member goes to the area he is busy all day getting the key people together and co-operating in various other ways.
Alauddin is 70. In spite of his age, he spends his energy without stint in hopes of seeing his country become literate. In his younger days he was instrumental in setting up two primary schools and one Madrassa (mosque school). But because he hasn’t got a Secondary School Certificate he can't be employed in any of these schools.
Alauddin has four sons, three daughters and several grandchildren. All his sons are economically productive. He nurtures one dream he says: "I want to die knowing that the community all around me is fully literate."