Children gleefully gain reading and counting skills
By Maherin Ahmed
Gazipur, 27 October 2013: It is 10:00 am on a Monday morning. The scorching sun is blazing on the field of West Chondona Government Primary School. Students have just settled in for their morning lessons after a friendly wrestle for a seat by the breezy windows.
Located in Gazipur district, the school stands on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka. Around 1650 children, aged 6-11, are enrolled in the primary classes of Grade I, II, and III. Acute dearth of space segregated them into multiple sections and shifts. Nevertheless, 75 students fit themselves in a classroom size of 10 feet by 8 feet. Conditions are difficult yet 14 teachers remain committed to tutor them all.
“Bhor holo, dor kholo, khukumuni utho re...” (Its dawn, open the door, wake up little girl), a girl recites a rhyme, standing confidently in front of the entire classroom. Her name is Chadni, a student of second grade. She reads intently for about a minute, not only with ease but also with a fitting voice modulation.
“Well done Chadni!” lauds her teacher, “who from the green group wants to read next?” Students are divided into three groups – Green, Blue and Yellow. These colors indicate their overall proficiency level in reading, writing and math skills.
Until very recently, Chadni belonged to the Yellow group as she could only recognize alphabets and some words. However, she was not able to read. In the course of six months, she crossed the entire spectrum of Yellow, Blue and Green. She is now equipped with admirable reading aptitude.
Chadni is one of the many examples of success of ECL (Each Child Learns) techniques provided by UNICEF with the aim to improve the quality of teaching and learning, taking into account the constant challenges of quality primary school education in Bangladesh.
Teachers deliver better services
Chadni’s Bangla teacher Pakhi Rani Roy feels proud of her students. She is now better equipped to help many in overcoming their weaknesses in reading skills.
“In past years, students like Chadni would pass marginally, and most of them were not able to even recognize alphabets. Due to large class sizes, I could not identify individual areas of weaknesses. With the ECL solutions: creating the individual lesson plans, monitoring assessments, spending a minute with each student, I can better help my students in raising their skill levels to where they should be,” she explains, adding that shespent two weeks at UNICEF funded training on implementing these ECL classroom solutions.
Like most students in her school, Chadni hails from a deprived background. Her parents work in a garments factory. After school, she helps her mother with household chores. Hence, when Chadni could not catch up in reading, she became demotivated to the point of dropping out. Her guardians, being uneducated, were unable to support her with any home tutoring.
“I felt very ashamed that I could not read. I would recite in class hearing from my friends who could. I did not want to come to school,” Chadni coyly admits. “But now, I enjoy reading, and I look forward to reading new books from the book corner!,” she explains with elation.
Book Corner is also a favorite for Moushi, a student of Grade III of Technogpara Government Primary School of Gazipur. Moushi also comes from an under privileged family. In January 2013, Moushi could barely recognize Bangla alphabets when some of her peers were able to read without help. Now she is not only able to recognize alphabets, but also able to read fluently with full understanding.
“Madam (teacher) asked me to read in front of her everyday. When I got stuck, madam helped me.” Moushi explains, “Now I enjoy reading. I enjoy reading new books from the book corner every week.”
Tamanna, Moushi’s friend has another story to tell. When Moushi was struggling to read, Tamanna was struggling to count. Tamanna can better help her parents by buying things herself: “I go to nearby shops to buy things, and I also count the proper change!”
Tamanna takes pleasure in solving problems together in her group, “It’s fun to study together, I like helping my friends with their math”, a bright smile spreads across her face.
Chadni, Moushi, Tamanna -- these are only three names of the millions of children facing a promising future for their improved learning experiences.
A total of 740 UNICEF-supported schools are located in some of the most disadvantaged and remote communities across Bangladesh. These children are now being provided with a strong foundation in reading and math skills for their future success.