Despite earning a meagre Tk 4,000 per month, van driver Asad Mia wants to educate his two daughters. His elder daughter Lamia is in 3rd grade. And from grade one until now, Fakhrul master has been giving tuitions to Lamia. Her father, Asad Mia, however never paid him a buck.
Shohana and Sumona, two sisters, have been taking tuitions from Fakhrul Master since grade one as well. Their father, Md Sojib Mollah, is a woodcarver and he pays 40 taka a day to the teacher, 20 taka per student.
Talking to Fakhrul Alam is like watching a movie- an old teacher runs with a bicycle for miles and teaches students from 1st grade to 5th grade for just 20 taka a day. It almost reminds us of David Hare, the 18th-century philanthropist who worked for the students of the Indian subcontinent.
Fakhrul Alam lives in Mohammadpur, Magura and in the entire area this popular teacher is known as Fakhrul master. Fakhrul Master's cycle has a small metal board in the front that says 'want to teach: Grade 1 to Grade 5. Tk 20 a day' with a phone number.
Every morning, he gets out at 10 am and after teaching the entire day he returns home at 6 pm.
He himself is only a secondary school graduate or matriculation passed. That's why he chose to teach students of grade 1 to grade 5.
No more, no less
Twenty years ago he started being a paddler tutor, for Tk 5 a day. The amount rose to Tk 20 in the last 20 years. Every day he travels through 10 miles on his bicycle and teaches 30 to 40 students in different places. But mostly 20-25 of them pay and the rest can't afford to pay.
But he has one condition- whatever you pay him, that shouldn't be due. It's almost like a day labourer job- take education and pay instantly, nothing should be left for tomorrow.
And at home he teaches 50 more students in 5 batches, mostly free of cost. But that same condition applies here as well- whoever pays for tuition has to come with Tk 20 in hand and after studies the money has to be paid.
Master says, "Some pay me with rice, paddy or a couple of eggs. And again some may pay me money that they can afford. I don't complain."
He says, "I never wanted surplus food or wealth. My idea was- I will teach the entire day. The money I would earn at the end of the day, I would buy groceries, my wife would cook and the next day the life cycle would continue."
Currently Fakhrul earns Tk 300 to Tk 350 a day. It's only in 2015 that he bought a mobile phone. Twenty years ago, when there was no cell phone, there used to be a specific place where kids would gather and Fakhrul master would be there for an hour to teach. After 2015, the routine has changed.
Fakhrul Master is not solvent himself, but then why does he teach for free? "So that I can answer to my God that I have done something for society," says the master.
But that's not just it, Fakhrul Alam has deeper thoughts on society. He wants to work for the children whose parents are separated and detached from the kids. To him, this growing phenomenon is the reason for teen-age gangs in our society.
He says, "I can see many couples breaking up, leaving the child to the grandparents. You can imagine how they manage- those old people can't even manage for themselves and now they have a child to take care of. These kids don't own a family, so they don't feel inclined to society or the country. And I feel as families are breaking more, there will be another kind of gang formed by these under-privileged broken family kids in the near future."
Fakhrul master wants to prepare these kids for the primary steps so that they don't follow a wrong path.
Some of these kids can't afford to have a pen or paper. Fakhrul master gives these to the students. He says, "Although that's not much, that's what I can afford."
For the last 20 years, that's how I have been doing this. "Maybe today you know me, I am being featured. But when I started, I didn't have this in mind," he said.
Why be a Tk 20 tutor?
Fakhrul master is no less than a philosopher, "When you don't have food for your kids, you come up with ideas. Poverty compels you to think That's where the proverb came from 'necessity is the mother of invention'".
He finished his secondary studies in 1975 but couldn't continue studies after that. In 1976, he joined a hospital in Dhaka as a guard for Tk 2000 a month. After two years of working there when Fakhrul asked for a salary raise, the administration told him to quit the job.
Dignity bruised, Fakhrul resigned immediately. He says, "I couldn't be with the big people anymore and decided to with the little ones. I decided to be a teacher and like that no matter how rich the parents are, they can never disrespect me nor can hurt me."
But now teaching has become his identity and also an addiction. Fakhrul says, "I have nothing to be scared of. I get along with the kids so well that whenever I travel with my cycle, kids would run after my cycle and cheer as if I am a dream vendor or the 'story grandpa' just like Hamilon's pied piper."
"I have seven children- five boys and two girls. They help me now that they are earning. But I don't want to quit teaching. It gives me a sense of satisfaction that I won't be scared to face God when I die. I will be able to say that I have done at least something for society," said a happy Fakhrul master.