Dreaming big amid bitter realities
By Julhas Alam
Dhaka, 31 December 2012: He announces with confidence that he has a dream. The 14-year-old Mohammad Mamun Bokaul says sometimes he thinks how one’s life moves on and how he has come this far despite all the adversities he has confronted throughout childhood.
“I want to be a TV journalist. That’s my dream. One day, I will be,” he says with conviction.
A beneficiary of a UNICEF-supported project Mamun is now more confident. His voice, articulation, and use of English words to describe his past, present and future come as a strong evidence that he is on a path of self-development to translate his dream into reality. But his past is not a happy tale.
Sordid realities of life:“When I was a small boy, my father died. It was in 2007,” he says. “It came like a thunderbolt, we were devastated.”
Mamun continues that his carpenter father was the only earner in their six-member family in Chandpur district. The boy began a harsh life as he started working as a “helper” of a four-wheeled vehicle used for carrying passengers.
“I was not happy with my work. I did not want to do that. I wanted to continue attending school. I used to hate my work,” he says. “But I quickly understood I had no other way.”
He could not flee his home keeping his family behind, but he was lost into a bigger, complicated and often-harsh world, which came as a nightmare to haunt him.
“One day, I went to nearby Munshiganj district to watch a film at a cinema hall with some friends. But when we came out, I lost my friends at a ferry terminal there. I had no idea how I would go back home alone. After waiting for some time, I boarded a small launch thinking that it will carry me home, to my mother.” But it did not happen.
“I found myself at a very busy, crowded ferry terminal. I had no idea where I was,” he says. “Finally, someone told me that I am at Sadarghat (terminal) in Dhaka, I have never heard of it.”
It was another harsh cycle of his life. Hungry, he started working as an assistant for goods-carrying rickshaw vans there.
“I used to cry everyday. I found nobody by my side. Nobody came to help me. I passed six months this way. It was a very bad time.”
Transition takes place:However, his fate changed after he suddenly noticed a makeshift school in Old Dhaka’s Badamtoli area where some children like him were attending.
“I joined them. Nobody asked me, I just went there and met a bhaiya (elder brother) and showed my interest,” he says. “That bhiaya told me: no problem, you come.”
Supported by UNICEF, the NGO has made efforts to change lives of many children, and Mamun is one of the brightest among them.
Mamun passed his Grade-VIII in 2011 as he continued his study. Currently, he is attending a one-year technical course on textiles weaving at a technical school in Dhaka’s Mirpur area. He received training at UCEP, a school that trains unprivileged children to acquire technical knowledge. “I want to complete my courses,” he says.
Mamun is currently employed as a “master trainer” at Aparajeyo Bangladesh. As a master trainer, he helps other street children to cope with the situation at the shelter home where they get boarding, food and primary healthcare.
Dreaming and helping others to dream:“These children will not listen to you, they may not trust you. But if I say something they will trust me. They understand me and I understand them,” he says showing a few dozen boys singing “we shall overcome” outside the office room. “I can play drums and harmonium, I teach them too,” he says. “This is my family.”
A few years ago, he found his mother and visited his village. “Everything looked different when I got home. Many things had changed, and I am a changed person too.” But he does not want to look back. Rather, he is only too eager to look forward.
Mamun says he visited Sri Lanka in June this year as part of an eight-country delegation, which attended a regional symposium to raise voice on violence against children. He was selected for the delegation after a nationwide competition among school children in Bangladesh. “I stood first and I got the chance,” he says. “I am really happy to be part of it.”
Mamun also met the Prime Minister, and the Speaker of the parliament as a part of a television programme “Our Voice” broadcast by national television BTV where children from different strata of the society ask questions to policymakers on issues that affect children’s life in Bangladesh.
“I urged them to stand for the children, especially for those who live in streets and are hungry, who are deprived of affection and education,” he says. “I had taken that message to them.”
As his life’s course changed, Mamun has been trained to operate video cameras under a scheme by another UNICEF’s partner NGO—Children’s Television Foundation of Bangladesh (CTFB).
Under a documentary project, Mamun worked for a short film, titled, “Where will they go?”
He currently works as a child journalist for a children’s news programme aired once a week in prime time news in one of Bangladesh’s leading private television channels ATN Bangla.
“Now I dream big. I want to be a renowned television reporter. I am ready to work hard to fulfill my dream,” Mamun says. End/