UAE expat launches 'school on wheels' to teach rural kids digital skills

Puttur was inspired by his own educational hurdles and his unfamiliarity with computers during his college days


SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Sat 13 Apr 2024, 4:09 PM

Last updated: Sat 13 Apr 2024, 10:22 PM

For Mohammed Haneef Puttur, an Indian expat residing in the UAE, teaching computer science to rural children was just a dream until few decades ago. Wondering how his dream came true? A little hint — an unconventional classroom without walls.

To fulfil his lifelong goal, Puttur launched a bus equipped with 17 laptops in remote areas of Karnataka in India.

Puttur, who hails from a village called Aryapu, found inspiration from his journey of educational limitations. Despite completing his engineering degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Malnad College of Engineering in 1999, he faced a significant gap in computer literacy. “I learned to operate a computer only after completing my engineering. I did not even lay my hands on a computer during my college days,” said Puttur.

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Determined to ensure others didn't face similar hurdles, Puttur initiated a project – ‘Class on Wheels’ to provide rural children with access to essential computer knowledge.

Mohammed Haneef is currently working as Cloud & Infrastructure Manager at Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre Lab at University of Dubai.

Mohammed Haneef Puttur
Mohammed Haneef Puttur

The idea of this initiative started in 2018 when Puttur seized the opportunity presented by the Abu Dhabi raffle draw Big Ticket's campaign, ‘Make a wish come true'. “I registered and my wish was granted. I utilised the funds which I won to kickstart the project,” said Puttur.

'Class on Wheels' is equipped with high-speed internet connectivity, comprehensive safety measures with CCTV monitoring, a silent generator capable of running for up to eight hours which is used to power the entire bus, qualified teachers, and innovative learning technologies.

The mobile computer lab, housed within a bus, travels throughout the South Canara district of Karnataka, catering to various rural schools. “Our mission is clear — to impart basic computer education, ranging from internet navigation to Microsoft Office proficiency. Each student undergoes a 10-hour course, culminating in a certification exam,” said Puttur.

“I remember my college days when mastering computer skills took considerable time. Today, with the evolution of technology and the accessibility to smart devices, children grasp these concepts in a few classes,” he said.

Since its inception four months ago, the lab has already impacted over a thousand students, illuminating their paths with newfound digital skills. "Beyond mere education, the initiative symbolizes hope and empowerment for these young minds, many of whom hail from families with limited access to technology."

Puttur is inviting others to replicate the model and even offering to operate additional labs if donated. “If people are willing to donate such labs, then we are ready to operate it and impart this knowledge to less privileged people of society,” said Puttur.

The operational costs, amounting to Rs100,000 per month, is generated through exterior advertisements on the bus. Additionally, Puttur's charitable trust, M Friends Charitable Trust, Mangalore, provides foundation for the initiative's sustainability.


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