It was the summer of ’96. We were sitting around casually and ruminating over various matters in our old Aminabad house, located in a densely populated-cum-commercial area of Lucknow, The big ancestral house, so full of so many memories, had actually been lying vacant for a long time and several people had often suggested we should dispose it off.
However, it was just as well we didn’t. Not just for us, but also for the many members of minority groups and other weaker sections of society residing in the neighbourhood – including small petty businessmen, daily wagers, book binders, school dropouts (mainly young girls) and especially the talented zardozi craftsmen, local chikankari workers, and others – for whom the use and obvious benefits of technology was financially quite daunting and thus remained a rather distant dream.
But they were our neighbours and we had known many of them for ages, sharing a common bond of similar aims and aspirations. And for many in the neighbourhood, as we could well witness in anguish, it was still a struggle to acquire even rudimentary educational and vocational skills. Even basic skills, which we all knew, were so vital and so necessary for improving their socio-economic status. It was, we decided, high time that this state of affairs was changed for the better. What it required most was an inspired initiative and a concerted determination to pursue the dream of a better future. The first impetus in this direction came the same year when we decided to set up a neighbourhood educational ‘help centre’ in our old house. We also marshaled our shared resources to ensure we could, to begin with, provide basic but good quality educational and technical facilities to all our students, and that at nearly no cost. It was a good beginning well made.
We started a computer technology learning centre in our old house, the “MA Academy of Applied Education.” The self-funding experiment was a popular success. A very nominal ‘fee’ was charged and a number of short-term computer courses were started. It was encouraging to see that in the very first year, as many as 150 young boys and girls enrolled in these study courses, confidently overcoming their fears of modern computer technology.
Our initiative was undoubtedly beginning to display the desired results. But, given the low literacy standards we encountered, it was clearly not enough. We were initially unable to register even 6th or 7th class-pass students at our centre. Many students, as such, were unable to effectively cope with the academic curriculum on our campus. That prompted us, in 1998, to also set up a primary school in the same premises: the Model Public School.
The unique combination of such joint efforts brought in many like-minded persons who shared the positive aims and objectives of our social initiative and who were equally willing to act as catalytic agents of change – not just limiting their focus to one particular neighbourhood, but expanding our common vision to cover the entire city of Lucknow, the capital of India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, and its adjoining districts.
Following up on this stimulating response and public support, we got ourselves registered as a Non-profit Organisation with the Indian Registrar of Societies in September 1998 – renaming our twin institutions Foundation for Education and Economic Development (FEED).