Sujit Chakraborty |GUWAHATI
Mahbubul Hoque, who has set up eight mega educational institutions and a university in 19 years, has turned out to be a guiding light for scores of people in northeast India.
With only one computer, four students, and just Rs 85 in his pocket in February 2001, Hoque has now emerged as one of the most influential edupreneurs of India. He is the founding Chancellor of the University of Science & Technology, Meghalaya (USTM), the first private university on science and technology in the entire northeast.
The university with a student strength of over 5,000 from all the eight northeastern states is empowered by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to award degrees as specified by the UGC.
Besides the USTM, Hoque, being the founding Chairman of the Education Research and Development Foundation (ERDF), has set up nine other educational institutions in the region with a total student strength of 7,500.
These institutions include two CBSE affiliated schools, one AICTE approved engineering college, one law school, one B.Ed. college, one AICTE approved business school, one women’s college, two PCI approved pharmacy colleges in addition to one centre for coaching and guidance centre, and one educational rehabilitation centre.
Speaking to IANS, Hoque said: “My institutions provide quality education from KG to PG to Ph.D levels. Out of the total number of students, more than 20 per cent belong to underprivileged backward classes who avail free education in each of the institutions where around 750 people work under the ERDF in different positions.”
“After securing the second rank in Master of Computer Applications (MCA) from the Aligarh Muslim University in 2000, I got lucrative job offers from multinational companies, both within the country and abroad. But I returned to my region and started my career as an educational entrepreneur with a strong determination to change the educational scenario of northeast India,” the 47-year-old edupreneur told IANS.
“The key focus of my vision is to provide apt teaching to poor and meritorious students of the northeast region. Of the over 5,000 students currently enrolled in USTM, over 1,200 students are availing free education. Nearly 90 per cent of USTM’s students belong to rural areas, over 38 per cent are tribals and 57 per cent are girls. The university and the other eight institutions run only on the contributions of the students,” Hoque added.
He said that more than 15 vice chancellors from different universities across the country are directly associated with the USTM, while many top personalities, including former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, former ISRO Chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar and former UGC Chairman Ved Prakash had visited the varsity and gave speeches in a number of events and convocations.
Terming the USTM as a people’s university, Hoque said it has hundreds of collaborative projects with a large number of reputed educational institutions and universities in India and abroad, including the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, IIT Guwahati, National Institute Rural Development, North East Space Application Centre, University Grant Commission in Bangladesh, Dhaka University and several institutions in Turkey.
Over the years, the USTM has turned into a higher education hub of northeast India.
The annual three-day flagship programme — North-East Graduate Congress — sees the participation of more than 10,000 students from over 300 colleges in eight states. More than 30 ethnic communities and languages across the region come together to gain knowledge about the various new career options, enhance their inherent skills.
“This amalgamation of cultural diversity not only creates awareness, but also a sense of inclusiveness and brotherhood thereby paving the way of nation building,” he said.
For his contributions to the field of education, Hoque has received many awards, including the prestigious Shikshacharya Award 2019 bestowed by the Asom Sahitya Sabha.
He said that the USTM, located along the Assam-Meghalaya border in Ri-Bhoi district of Meghalaya, has a strong determination to continue its mission of spreading education to every nook and corner of the region.
“The USTM has charted out a roadmap for its way ahead, ‘Mission Bronze’ – to make it a top university in the east by 2020, ‘Mission Silver’ – to become one of the top universities in the country by 2025, and ‘Mission Gold’ – to become a world class university by 2030,” he said.
Hoque said that ERDF has a plan of establishing a number of institutions for the betterment of education, especially in the rural areas.
He said that some of the upcoming projects include 10 more CBSE affiliated schools in rural and backward places of the northeast region, five B.Ed colleges, a medical college and hospital with allied healthcare institutions, one educational TV channel, and one newspaper each in English and Bangla emphasising on education.