Beyond Bias    

They rejected government jobs to start an academy for commerce students, but not without a few fingers raised. Heena Muzzafar tells story of an Old Srinagar teacher-duo

Accountancy-Class-Illustration-by-Malik-KaisarIn 2012, Huma Aijaz and Uzma Shafi, both 28 now, recall receiving an extraordinary request from a common friend. “Can you help my brother clear Class 12 exams,” was the request from the caller.

Both fresh pass-outs from Kashmir University in Masters in Finance and Control (MFC) had no experience in teaching, still they thought to give it a shot. “Within no time six others joined,” recalls Uzma.

Before taking their first class the girls recalled one of their teacher’s words: Teaching numerical is not a cakewalk.

Luckily, the entire group passed with flying colours, sending message in the area, especially amongst commerce students. “People started suggesting us to start a proper coaching centre,” said Huma. Though the idea felt good, it was not easy to implement.

Excited, Huma went to meet one of her teachers to share the idea, but “he instead of supporting, threw a book on table and told me to join his coaching centre for teaching theoretical papers,” says Huma with eyes full of tears.

Disheartened, Huma almost abandoned the idea because of teacher’s behaviour. Unfortunately, the teacher was not the only one to discourage them. Almost every other person they shared their idea with had same suggestion: don’t go for it. Some even said, “Just because you taught seven boys doesn’t mean you can handle a class full of boys.”

However, Huma and Uzma consoled each other by downplaying the gender angle.

Finally, in 2013, despite criticism and resistance from friends and family, Huma and Uzma, started Prestige Academy from Nawpora, Khanyar in Srinagar. “We teach Class 11 upwards up to B.Com third year, including a few PG students,” said Huma. “Besides we provide comprehensive coaching for competitive exams like CMAT, UGAT.”

The same year, both Huma and Uzma got selected as Finance Assistants in state’s Power Development Cooperation. “We rejected it,” said Huma. “It was a conscious decision.”

After the refusal, the argument Huma and Uzma faced was, “you can join government sector and run a coaching as well”.

However, Huma feels, “That way we couldn’t have focused on our dream project.” The decision was partly driven by the fact that both Huma and Uzma were involved with the coaching. “This (coaching centre) is our child and we have to nurture it,” they told their parents.

Despite hailing from business families, Huma and Uzma remember how they couldn’t manage to buy a white-board. “We wanted to manage things on our own without taking help from our families,” said the duo.

With over hundred students enrolled at the academy, they are now able to manage their expenses. “It took us almost a year to reach breakeven point,” said Huma with a sigh of relief. “Now we even give fee concession to needy students.”

However, the teacher-duo regret the attitude of locals in Nawpora, who undermine their efforts by passing remarks like: Kuerri kya parnawen? (What are girls going to teach).

The worst part was when remarks turned into hostility. “Every other day our signboard would be torn up by somebody,” said Uzma. “But, without creating fuss, we would fix it the next morning.”

However, with bad times gone, people are now coming up with suggestions like: why don’t you open a college!

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