In March this year, the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK, published a case study called ‘Faizal and Shabana Foundation: A Venture Philanthropic Approach to Education’. It threw the spotlight on the Government Vocational Higher Secondary School for Girls at Nadakkavu, Kozhikode. The 126-year-old school was developed by businessman Faizal E Kottikollon and his wife Shabana. They spent a whopping Rs 20 crore on upgrading its infrastructure and improving the education standards.
A hugely successful businessman based in the Middle East, Faizal created one among the top three standalone valve casting foundries in the world. In 2012, he sold the company to the American corporation Tyco for USD 400 million. “Shabana and I decided to make a difference with the money. Businessmen used to think about society once, but now think only about themselves,” says the 54-year-old tycoon who set up the Faizal and Shabana Foundation which took over the Naddavaku school buildings.
The school was refitted thoroughly; a complete makeover with colourful murals on the walls, airy classrooms and large chemistry and biology labs. “Some university students told us that the labs were bigger than labs in their college,” says Dr Joseph Sebastian, director of the foundation. Now the girls studying in the school had options like never before.
They can play volleyball, basketball or badminton in the indoor recreation area or do weight-lifting and stretching exercises. The mess accommodates 1,200 students. Canteen manager Unnikrishnan says, “Earlier the canteen was so small that there was sitting place for only three or four teachers. The students had lunch at their desks.” The school has added an all-weather Astroturf costing Rs 1 crore brought from New Zealand.
“The only way to change poverty is through education. There are 1.2 million government schools in India. About 10 per cent of Indian students attend private schools. The poor go to government schools, which should be improved drastically. It cannot be the government’s problem alone. People should contribute,” says the businessman.
Today three lakh students in Kerala are witnessing change, thanks to the efforts of a philanthropist who sought to illuminate young minds. After the success of the school in Kozhikode, the state government is re-investing in public education through the Pothuvidyabhyasa Yagnyam Mission to regain lost trust in government schools and provide free education. It’s the best lesson Faizal could teach.