GQ India
Akshar Foundation Image Credit: GQ India
Akshar Foundation Image Credit: GQ India

The Akshar Foundation Is Rewiring Access To Education

The Akshar Foundation is rewiring access to education, and its impact, for underprivileged children in India with a groundbreaking model. Co-founder Mazin Mukhtar details how they practise what they preach

Mazin Mukhtar

At 16, Mazin Mukhtar was an aerospace engineering student with excellent prospects. He had a rare paid internship at the University of Maryland, and an even rarer job offer from Boeing. By 18, he’d found a side gig: He was volunteering his time teaching children in the slums around Washington, DC. “Poverty in the US is really quite bad,” he says. “There are a lot of issues with guns, violence and drugs in these slums. It was traumatic.”

One day, Mukhtar asked a teenage student about what he hoped to achieve that year. “He told me he wanted to have a child,” Mukhtar says. “At 14! And he said he wanted this because he wasn’t sure he’d live till he was 18, and wanted to leave something behind.”

For Mukhtar, who’d already begun to be disillusioned with the education system in the US, and “couldn’t live with the guilt that came attached to [his own] privilege,” this was a turning point. He dropped out, and started to work towards changing the education model so it would be accessible to the underprivileged. His first attempt in 2013, a school in New York City, failed due to “real estate problems”. It was around this time that he met Tej Hazarika (Assamese singer Bhupen Hazarika’s son), who in turn introduced him to Parmita Sarma, then a student at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai who was also researching better access to education. By 2016, the

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