Nellie Ahmed


In today’s rapidly changing world, being an educational leader can be both exciting and challenging. As the world becomes more interconnected and complex, the role of an educational leader has expanded to include not only traditional academic responsibilities but also an increasing emphasis on fostering critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and adaptability in students.

One person who has demonstrated exceptional leadership in the field of education is Nellie Ahmed, the founder of Maria’s Public School in Guwahati, India. With a vast experience in the education sector, Ms. Nellie Ahmed has been instrumental in shaping the educational landscape of Assam, with a focus on creating an environment where students can thrive both academically and personally.

In this article, we will explore the challenges and opportunities faced by educational leaders in today’s world and discuss how Nellie Ahmed’s leadership and vision have made Maria’s Public School a leading institution in the region. By examining her innovative strategies and the impact of her leadership on students, teachers, and the broader community, we can gain insights into the qualities and skills necessary for effective educational leadership in the 21st century.

Educating for a Better World

Nellie Ahmed was encouraged by her mother, Mrs. Sofia Z Ahmed, to pursue Montessori training in Kolkata. Inspired by the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori and recognizing the lack of educational institutions in the region, Nellie dreamt of establishing a Montessori school in Guwahati. In 1988, her dream became a reality with the founding of Maria Montessori House of Children, a preschool that initially had only one child enrolled.

Through the support of well-wishers and friends, the number of children at the school began to steadily increase. As a result, the school expanded to include secondary and senior secondary levels, with the first batch of AISSE students achieving remarkable success in 1996. From that point forward, the school experienced continuous growth and achievements, marking a significant milestone in Nellie Ahmed’s journey.

As the Founder and Managing Trustee of Maria’s Public School, Nellie Ahmed has a multifaceted role. She approaches the world with a curious and research-oriented perspective, while also acting as a firm administrator, strict disciplinarian, caring caregiver, and grand matriarch. Although her role is pivotal, it is also filled with pleasure and anxiety, which requires her to be proactive. Also, at Maria’s Public School, Nellie has fostered a culture that welcomes change and new paradigms and strives to promote critical thinking among students. The competent faculty, headed by the Principal, helps maintain the educational quality, and teachers are encouraged to enhance their professional skills through national and international orientation programs. They are also provided with ample opportunities to hone their creativity and talent.

In the thirty-fifth year since its establishment, Nellie Ahmed continues to nurture Maria’s Public School with unwavering dedication and affection, treating it like her own child. She has assumed the role of a vigilant and caring mother, tending to every need of the school to ensure its healthy growth. Despite the remote location of the state in which the school is situated, Nellie has steadfastly pursued opportunities to provide children with exposure and experiences on par with those in other parts of the country and the world.

Maria’s Public School holds the distinction of being one of the pioneering educational institutions in the region, regularly sending student representatives to national and international events. As early as 2007, a team from the school attended the 31st Annual International Conference hosted by the United Nations International School (UNIS) at the United Nations Assembly Hall in New York. This participation continued until 2013, with subsequent student groups achieving recognition and accolades in various events. Nellie herself, along with teachers and student groups, has embarked on visits to several countries such as Malta, Finland, Israel, England, Canada, Sri Lanka, the USA, and Australia. These visits serve multiple purposes, including adopting best practices from these nations, engaging in global exchange programs, and participating in international conferences and competitions.

Furthermore, Maria’s Public School has established long standing partnerships, such as its association with the British Council, resulting in the school receiving the International School Award for three consecutive terms until 2021. It has also held the distinction of being the first National Coordinator School of the Green School Alliance in West Virginia. The school quickly became a Global Member of Round Square and actively participates in its activities. Nellie has fostered relationships with AFS India and various other national organizations. The school regularly sends student participants to a wide range of national events, including sports, cultural activities, debating competitions, and Model United Nations conferences.

Maria’s Public School also places a strong emphasis on inviting specialists and experts from various fields to interact with the students, providing them with valuable insights and enriching their knowledge in areas of interest. The school organizes intra and inter-school competitions in sports and literary fields, as well as annual Model United Nations conferences, making it one of the pioneering schools in the region to introduce MUN. Nellie takes great pride in these initiatives and activities, having successfully implemented innovative ideas that have earned her the recognition of being a visionary in the field of education.

Overcoming the Pandemic

As the founder of the school, Nellie Ahmed demonstrated strong leadership skills in the face of unexpected challenges posed by the pandemic. She quickly adapted the school’s approach to education by utilizing available resources and following guidelines set by the CBSE and the government. Nellie Ahmed’s leadership helped the school to provide uninterrupted online classes in all subjects, including organizing virtual events such as literary competitions and career counseling sessions. Additionally, she ensured that the emotional well-being of the students was taken care of, and their parents were advised to monitor their activities during online classes. Her ability to keep the workforces motivated and safe at this time of uncertainty led to positive responses from all quarters. Nellie Ahmed also helped the school to cope with the ever-changing situation and provided a platform for the students to continue their education in the best possible way.

Knowing Nellie Ahmed

Personally, Ms. Nellie Ahmed is quite adaptable to new environments and welcomes changes. However, the pandemic was an unexpected situation, and with so much at stake, it was indeed a challenging time. On a personal level, she has renewed her principle of keeping a Plan B ready for every situation. The new normal has made her more resilient, and it has intensified her belief that “change is constant” and that “every run you take could be a hurdle race.”

When we asked Ms. Nellie how important family is in a person’s life she shared – “The family plays an important role in encouraging individuals to dream big and turn those dreams into reality”. “However, it is important to remember that not all successful people are fortunate to have a strong familial bond, and in the end, it is the dreamer who must strive hard to turn the dream into reality, and one needs to be brave, decisive, and independent at times to walk alone”, she continued.

Furthermore, Ms. Nellie considers herself lucky to have been born into an affluent family with liberal thoughts, where education was the first priority. Her maternal grandfather, the late Mofizuddin Hazarika, who was a renowned poet, instilled in her the seeds of civility, tolerance, and spirituality. Also, it was her late mother, Sofia Zaman, who motivated her to take up Montessori training.

Lastly, as an education leader Nellie Ahmed has contributed to the healthy growth of society, including its social, economic, and psychological well-being. Making note of a significant shift in societal attitudes towards working women, she acknowledges that much still needs to be done to achieve women’s empowerment and equality. “The process of bringing about change and establishing gender equality requires women to change their attitudes, advocate for their rights, and increase their awareness, and education and awareness are fundamental to this process”, Nellie Ahmed concludes.