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Ban Soon-taek visits a UNICEF-supported school for working children in Bangladesh

© UNICEF Bangladesh/2008/ Uddin
Ban Soon-taek, wife of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, visits the Jamuna 10 Learning Centre in Bangladesh earlier this month.

By Zafrin Chowdhury

DHAKA, Bangladesh, 17 November 2008 – Ban Soon-taek, wife of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, recently visited a UNICEF-supported learning centre for working children in Bangladesh. The Jamuna 10 Learning Centre in Dhaka is part of UNICEF's ‘Basic Education for Hard-to-Reach Urban Working Children’ project, which is being implemented in six Bangladeshi cities.

At the centre, the children attend school after they finish work for the day. They are able to study English, math and Bangla, as well as receive life-skills training. Mrs. Ban heartily commended the children's interest in a better future through education, despite the difficult realities of their lives. 

“I am deeply moved by how hard you are working to continue your education after working for hours every day to help your families,” she said.

Empowering girls

A total of 6,600 centres have been established in Bangladesh, targeting 166,000 child labourers between the ages of 10 to 14 who are not receiving a formal education because they work to support themselves and their families. The project is funded by UNICEF in partnership with the Canadian International Development Agency and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

"There are more girls than boys in most learning centres. We want to include and empower more girls," explained UNICEF Bangladesh Chief of Education Nabendra Dahal. "The challenge is to make the learners stay on to complete the 40-month course. Many drop out because of high rates of mobility and rising demands on their earning."

The Project Director of the Bureau of Non-Formal Education, Rezaul Quader, toured the learning centre with Mrs. Ban, who observed the students' various study groups and activities.

"I am impressed to see your perseverance under difficult circumstances," Mrs. Ban told the children. "I encourage you to keep it up. And I thank the Government of Bangladesh, the implementing NGO and UNICEF for creating learning opportunities for the working children."

'Anything is possible'

Mrs. Ban spoke to individual students, asking them each their name and age and inquiring about their lessons, families and jobs.

The children, who work at various jobs such as selling vegetables or making handicrafts, told her they have to work for an average of six hours every day to earn approximately $8.

"I will tell you a true story," said Mrs. Ban. "When my husband, the UN Secretary-General, was a child, he did not have a desk to study on and he often studied under a tree. If you work hard and stay focused on your future, anything is possible, and you can one day realize your dreams and reach your goals."



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