Children of the slums get a good start in education
By Raffat Binte Rashid
Dhaka, 11 July 2013: Almost all slums in the city bear a strikingly similar appearance -- dingy, dreary and sad. However, it’s the residents who add colour and vivacity with their stories; their perseverance to etch out a living in this metropolis and their strong will power to endure and live their lives, irrespective of the intensity of their personal tragedies and hardships. As one enters the “Bhanga Wall Bosti” situated inside the Korail slums in Banani, right in the heart of the metropolis, one is greeted with such stories of accomplishments and fight for survival.
If one enters the slum in the morning hours, one is bound to be greeted by the chirpy sounds of tiny tots singing their nursery rhymes. Following the sound, one will find oneself near a small thatched hut, in front of which one will invariably notice neatly lined up tiny pairs of torn and raggedy looking shoes. This is the “Shishu Bikash Kendra” (child development centre), a playgroup school for slum children of age four and above run by a local NGO partner. Shishu Bikash Kendra is a UNICEF supported initiative implemented in partnership with the government of Bangladesh and its main focus is on educating children living in the slums focusing on early education.
Like any other Play Group class
The tiny tots inside this class are all four-year-olds, dressed in dirty frocks and pants. They are busy drawing freely on their slate boards with pink coloured chalks. Although the room is stuffy and does not have an electric fan, the kids don’t seem to mind the heat and humidity. They are happy in their world of fun and merry-making. Some of them are seen playing with plastic toys at one corner while the more thoughtful ones sit at the imagination corner and while away time by thinking or playing with mobile sets or pots and pans.
“I have 30 students. They start their class at 8:00 am in the morning and go home by 10:30am. Our curriculum includes nursery rhymes, acting, dancing, singing, and free plays. We do have drawing and craft-making classes,” says Mosammat Alia, who is a college student herself and works as a teacher here at the Shishu Bikash Kendra.
Pre-primary schools in Korail slums
Jannat, a petite girl aged six dressed in a fancy frock, greets visitors with a pleasing smile. She is all too eager to show what she has learnt in school.
“After a child passes the Shishu Bikash age of four-plus, they are enrolled in pre-primary schools of BRAC, and from here we place them in different government primary schools,” says Fatema Yasmin, Senior Branch Manager, Pre-primary Education of BRAC- which is local implementing partner of the project.
“My name is Jannat. I am the leader of kathal (jackfruit) group and today we will show you our national fruit jackfruit,” she says while all others in her group pick up the picture of a jackfruit and show it to all their classmates in a show-and-tell class activity.
“The classes in BRAC pre-primary schools are divided into groups named after fruits and these groups have an individual leader who is responsible for the group’s performance. The children of pre-primary slum schools are smart and confident and are also good performers at school. They can easily adapt to their environment and are always eager to learn,” explains Yasmin.
“The curriculum of these schools is simple. We have three books -- Bornomala for Bangla alphabet and word making, Shonkh mala for figure writing and a book on social science to teach social awareness, with emphasis on cleanliness, discipline, and gentleness. We teach them to share as well. We also have a few charts in English from which they read alphabets and words.
Korail slums are comprised of seven different slums, namely Bede Bosti, Ershad Nagar, Bou Bazaar, Beltala, Mosaraf Market, Bhanga Wall, Jamai Bazaar, Godown Bosti, and there are a total of 64 schools run under this project -- 30 Shishu Bikash Kendras for children aged four and above and 34 pre-primary schools for older groups of children,” informs Yasmin.
The parents of these children are mostly day labourers, housemaids, and rickshaw or van pullers. They are deprived of their basic rights to proper health and hygienic living standards, nutritious food and education. NGOs like BRAC with the support of UNICEF are working relentlessly to ensure education for the Dhaka slum children.