Moudud Ahmmed Sujan, back from Kurigram
It was only a few years back that most teachers of the primary schools in remote charlands across Brahmaputra river in Kurigram district used to assign proxy teachers to conduct classes every day. People of the charlands were also prevented from sending their children to schools owing to many socio-economic reasons, including lack of quality education.
But now the situation has changed. Guardians now not only send their children to primary schools but also work as caretakers of the schools in order ensure the accountability of teachers. There has been made an extraordinary and successful story of public and private coordination in char lands in the realm of education.
Lovely Begum, a middle-aged mother of class-VII boy Lutfor at Friendship School at Jatrapur Char in Kurigram Sadar Upazilla, described the story of change thus:
“I admitted my son into pre-primary class in Friendship School in 2011. He achieved A+ in the Primary School Certificate examination at a time when there was no student in the nearby primary school who an got A+. My elder son studies in class nine in a local high school. However, he couldn’t have academic results like my younger son. I am, you can say, satisfied with the quality of education here.”
Friendship, a non-government organization which started to work in the charlands in 2002, addresses health, education, poverty reduction and women empowerment issues.
Sultana Parvin, Deputy Commissioner of Kurigram district, told Bangladesh Post, “Yes, I have visited Friendship schools. They are doing good work in several chars which has brought about qualitative changes in those regions.”
“However, their initiatives cannot be compared to government initiatives since they are addressing a limited area while the government is addressing all the areas,” she said about the performance of the government schools in relation to Friendship Schools. Sources have said that Friendship have built and established 78 self-sufficient and portable schools where previously there were no government schools in remote areas of Bangladesh.
A recent visit to a Friendship School in Charjatrapur in Kurigram Sadar revealed facilitators assisting students to learn from recorded videos by using e-learning equipment in class six and class seven. The equipment was powered by solar energy. These schools are usually situated in the remote areas of Brahmaputra char lands where there is no access to electricity.
Mamunur Rashid, supervisor of Friendship education programme, told Bangladesh Post, “Educational qualification of almost all of the teachers and facilitators is up to SSC and they are assigned from the local community. They regularly go through intensive training and motivation. This is the key to the success of these schools.”
In 2017 Primary School Certificate (PSC) examination, two students secured A+ while 24 secured A and two A- out of 28 students. There was no student from the nearby primary school who could secure an A+, sources said.
According to Mamunur Rashid, every class has 30 students and only five teachers or facilitators run the school. E-learning facilities are there for for classes six and seven.
Meanwhile, some 1,237 government primary schools have also changed the educational landscape of the remote char lands.
Mofizur Rahman Mondir, president of Char Khamar Bashpata Government Primary School in Chilmari Upazilla under Kurigram District told Bangladesh Post, “However, the situation is now better than in previous days as the government officials have monitoring.”
“Due to the harsh transportation system, the teachers can’t reach school in time. We are trying to shape strategy to address this fact since nine Upazillas of Kurigram are riverine. In fact, it’s all about the policy of the government,” said Swapan Kumar Roy Chowdhury, Primary Education officer of Kurigram district.
About the Friendship schools there, he said, “There is no chance for all the children to be accommodated in the Friendship schools. However, it has created awareness about quality education among the people here.”
Runa Khan, founder of Friendship NGO, told Bangladesh Post, “When we started working in those remote chars, there was no access to education there. But now the government has also reached those areas.
“We recruit and train teachers from the local community because the teachers of government schools face challenges in reaching the schools in time due to poor transportation. Our schools are portable, considering that natural calamities are a factor. We have overcome these harsh realities rather easily,” she added.