Babar Ali, 16, Creates Free School for Poor Villagers

A 16-year-old boy from India has created a free program to educate more than 800 children in his village.

Babar Ali, a 16-year-old student from West Bengal, India, takes his schoolwork very seriously. Every day after a six-mile journey to school, he sits in the front row and works tirelessly to transcribe his teachers’ words into his notebook. 

Although Ali is a model student, his main concern isn’t with getting straight As. Instead, he’s on a mission to help those without the opportunity to go to school to receive the same education that he has been granted.

So every day, Ali races home after his lessons are over, where hundreds of children from his village are waiting in his backyard. Although these youths are eager to receive an education, they’ve never been to school. Their families are not able to afford the cost of textbooks, and many of them need to work during the day to support their relatives. In most circumstances, these children would remain uneducated and illiterate, forced to do menial jobs for the rest of their lives. Thanks to Ali’s help, they may have a chance at a better life.

Ali never set out to create his own school, but his mission has taken on a life of its own since it began. Ali began giving lessons to his friends from the village at age nine, and word has spread far and wide over the last seven years. Soon, other children began crowding in, eager to see what he could teach them. Today, more than 800 students come to Ali’s backyard to learn, and his program has grown: now, Ali shares the spotlight with nine other volunteer teachers, and provides his students with donated food and textbooks.

Ali comes from a poor family himself, and, combined with household chores, traveling, and school attendance, his makeshift classroom takes a heavy toll on his time. But he believes his efforts are more than worth whatever sacrifices he may be making.

“In the beginning I was just play-acting, teaching my friends,” he told BBC News, “but then I realized these children will never learn to read and write if they don’t have proper lessons. It’s my duty to educate them, to help our country build a better future.”