Dhaka’s Education Fair kicks off a nation-wide festival of learning
By Kathryn Seymour
Dhaka, 1 September 2008: A small girl, dressed in a wedding sari, stands next to a child groom. Behind them, three police officers arrest a marriage broker. However, the police officers wield plastic guns and are hardly older than the child bride herself. These young actors stand atop a parade float depicting one of the many obstructions that children in Bangladesh face in achieving their right to education.
Behind them, a fisherman and his children wave from their float at the gathering crowd. They represent the poverty that causes children to drop out of school. At the front of the parade a girl on crutches steps out for all children denied their right to an education because of disability.
The colourful procession traveled from Bangladesh’s Directorate of Primary Education to Senpara Porbota Government Primary School, home of Dhaka’s Education Fair 2008.
Promoting quality learning and open access to education
Dhaka’s Education Fair is the first of sixty-four primary education fairs that will be held across the country throughout September, as a joint initiative of the Government of Bangladesh and UNICEF.
At the fairs, teachers, students and community members come together, with parades, music and dance performances, games, competitions and education stalls where teachers and students can exhibit their work.
Ms. Rasheda K. Chowdhury, Primary and Mass Education Adviser opened the Dhaka fair. At the opening, Mr. Carel de Rooy, Country Director of UNICEF said, “We hope the fair will bring inspiration to the Government’s goal of quality education for all. I believe the education fair will contribute in increasing public awareness, generate public support and mobilize resources for education, particularly for quality and inclusive education.”
The theme of this year’s festival –“We will build our own joyful schools” – encourages communities to work together to improve learning experiences, school environments and equity of access.
Teachers and children share education initiatives
Nure-e-Alam Siddique, head teacher of Nababgang Gov Primary School, is extremely proud of the hard work put in by his staff and students to prepare their display for the Dhaka fair. The 1,700 students and 19 teachers of Nababgang contributed several dioramas (including a small house with working electric light and fan, built entirely by grade five students), scale models, wall posters and educational games.
Nababgang Primary also brought their school’s puppet theatre to the fair. Teachers from the school performed short puppet plays for all visitors.
“We regularly set up this puppet theatre at the edge of our school,” says Headmaster Siddique. “Anybody from the community can come and watch the puppet shows. The show that we’ve brought to the fair is about birth registration and school admission. We use these plays to encourage parents to enroll their children in school.”
Headmaster Siddique hopes that other schools will be inspired to try staging their own puppet shows within their communities. “The best part of the fair for us is sharing ways of promoting education and the different materials we can use for learning. If we use things from the fair when we go back to our schools, it will increase the quality of our own education programmes.”
Fostering pride in education
The teachers and students of over 800 schools are visiting Senpara Porbota School over the two-day-long Dhaka fair.
“The fair is really good,” says Rupali (10) who is in class five at Senpara Porbota. “We feel very proud to have it at our school. I painted the village scenery for our school’s display.”
“The students are joyful when the see all the stalls and their work pinned on the wall,” says Wahibuzz Amanminh, Headmaster of Senpara Porbota. “Many people are coming here to our school. They see that we are only a government primary school, but that we still have good classrooms and teaching aids.”
All government primary schools in Bangladesh have been invited to participate in the nation-wide celebrations, with 10,000 to 100,000 students, teachers and parents expected to visit each of the divisional fairs.