School dropouts revisit the joy of learning
By Maherin Ahmed
Satkhira, August 17, 2014: The impact of her father’s imprisonment was devastating on her. A girl of only eight years, Asma Akhter Akhi spent days and nights without proper food. In 2009, Asma’s father, a lorry driver, was caught in a family feud. Soon afterwards, the police took him away.
He was the breadwinner of the family. The moment he was taken away, his family was left with no income. For two months, Asma and her mother spent days without knowing when their next meal will be. In a desperate attempt, her mother remarried; hoping to be able to feed herself and her child.
However, this did not also work out. Asma’s stepfather, a day labourer, unfortunately did not have enough money to feed them. Moreover, he treated Asma badly. Seeing no other way out, Asma sought shelter at her grandparent’s place. There too, misery greeted her. Asma’s grandmother was a beggar and her grandfather was too feeble to work.
In compensation of the roof over her head, Asma assumed responsibility of all household chores: cooking, sweeping, cleaning, and everything else. “I passed many days without having any meal at all,” Asma, now aged 12, says.
In the midst of fighting against abject poverty, education immediately took a backseat. “I studied in grade 4 when I stayed with my father. When he left, I could not continue my education anymore.
Asma now attends an Ability Based School in Kulla village of Ashashuni upazila in Satkhira, a district in Southwestern Bangladesh. She has been attending this special school for seven months. She says for the three hours she attends this school, she finds an escape from her everyday misery “I am able to learn here. Apa (teacher) loves me a lot. She takes care of me. I love to spend my time in the school.”
Asma is one pupil in a class of 30 students, who got a second chance in education.
Providing age-appropriate basic learning
Ability Based Accelerated Learning (ABAL) is a form of curriculum design, teaching strategies and evaluation method that focuses on creating opportunities and experiences for students to assist them with identifying their own learning style and help them learn in the most productive and positive way possible. ABAL programme aims to provide children aged 8-14 appropriate basic education to out of school students in safe learning environment. The ultimate objective is to enter or reenter them into formal primary schools. The initiative is a part of the Let Us Learn Global Project funded by Findel Family of Germany.
Teachers provide a joyful learning environment so that students are eager to attend school and a dropout does recur. Education is provided in basic Math, English, Bangla, primary science and life skills. The teaching process is interactive; teachers also provide students with practical education to confront social issues like eve teasing.
“My teacher has taught if a man disturbs me, I should tell him very nicely that I am not interested in him, and that I am a good girl. If he disturbs me again, then I will communicate with an older guardian” says Asma.
Students are provided with free writing instruments and papers. As monetary incentive, they receive Taka 100 per month. “I am able to study here because all materials are free. If they did not pay, my grandmother would have never allowed me to attend school,” adds a relieved Asma.
Lessons on life
Apart from building an academic foundation, teachers take short lessons on hygiene, nutrition, as well as disaster preparedness since Satkhira is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters.
“Our teacher has taught us to take refuge in safe shelters when there is a cyclone,” says Roisuddin, Asma’s classmate.
Roisuddin dropped out of school at grade three. Unlike Asma, family concern was not the reason. He could not make a transition to formal school life. A son of a van driver, Roisuddin was also not encouraged by his family to continue with his education. Gradually, he discontinued schooling.
“I like to come here because of the rhymes, songs and dances” says Roisuddin.
This project has been initiated in October 2012. At present, 250 learning centres are currently operational. A total of 250 trained teachers are delivering ability based accelerated learning to 7,000 out of school children across the country.