He has won the national logo design competition for the Centre’s new education policy, but may as well be its brand ambassador. For, Nawaj Shaikh, 33, is the son of a daily wage labourer who studied in a zilla parishad school in a village in Solapur district, went on to do his Masters in Medical Microbiology, and is now pursuing his PhD while working as a “technical officer” at the National AIDS Research Institute (NARI) in Pune.
“I have always believed that education is the greatest leveller in India. A person can dream of becoming almost anything and can even achieve the dream, provided he gets proper education,” said Shaikh.
“I developed an interest in logo design software, and started designing logos whenever any competition was announced. Although I have submitted logos for many competitions, this is my first award,” he said.
Shaikh hails from Shindewadi village in Solapur district of Maharashtra. His father worked at a local garage for Rs 10 per day, and his mother is a housewife.
“Right from the beginning, my parents always encouraged education. We went to a zilla parishad school where we studied really hard. I did my Masters in Medical Microbiology from BJ Medical College in Pune. I am now pursuing my PhD in immunology from the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences along with my job at NARI,” said Shaikh.
“We were very poor, and because we were poor, my brother and I concentrated on our studies to better our situation. My brother is now in the Mumbai Police. All this was possible because of a school that gave us free education and parents who supported us rather than sending us off to work,” he said.
His father, Najir Shaikh, 55, is a proud man today. “I dropped out of school when I was four years old and started working in a hotel. Then I got married and worked at a garage for Rs 10 per day. We went through some very rough times, but I knew the importance of good education. So I made sure that Nawaj never missed a class. There were times when I could not even provide a packet of biscuits. Both our sons have made us proud,” he said.
Najir now works at his brother’s farm whenever required. “I have told him not to work but he insists on working. Old habits die hard,” said Shaikh.
Although Shaikh can now afford to send his son to a “renowned” English medium school in Pune, he has opted for the same zilla parishad school in his village where he studied. And he has a word of advice for the government as it frames its new education policy.
“It is high time that at least educated people stopped making a business out of education. The new education policy should concentrate on making the local schools better. Majority of India still lives in villages and they should benefit from the education policy, because rich people can always avail the best services… If the government has to truly become ‘meri sarkar’, then it has to make sure that all its policies make the life of the poorest Indian in villages better,” he said.
Meanwhile, Vinod Kumar Maheshwari of Rewari, Haryana, has won the slogan competition, while Vipitha Devi of Paravur, Kerala, has won the tagline competition. All the three winners will get Rs 10,000 each.
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