All for One !
Photos: Khondker Nasif Akhter and Jaago Foundation.
It was recent, but it was observed. It was sudden, but it was effective. It began with one word that soon had different meanings to different individuals. It was a simple message. A message to the children, a message to the elderly, a message to the future and one to the past, and also the present, it was a message to every walk of life –it was a message to ALL.
ALL is an initiative taken by the 'Jaago' foundation where they believed in 'Quality Education for ALL'. But it has more to it than just education; it is a call to the people of the nation to step up and make a stand to improve our educational sector for all. They believe a parent should have the authority to know what level of education their children are getting. And at the same time the teachers should be qualified enough to motivate the young generation to build a better nation for themselves in the future-- a proper guideline. And for that to take place, Jaago wants all, not just one group of interested people, a whole nationality, all races of people, all different ethnicity to act as one.
Volunteers registering at Jaago's head office at Rayer Bazaar.
From a few research and surveys done by BRAC, it shows, in spite of the government's many initiatives, many children in Bangladesh still remain out of formal primary education every year. In many places, particularly in rural areas and hilly areas, the number of government schools is not adequate comparing to the number of students. Sometimes the distance between students' homes and the school is too far and many students feel discouraged to continue their schooling. Poverty is another reason for many children who are not attending the formal schools. Though government primary education is supposed to be free, there still are many hidden costs that parents have to spend for their children's primary education. The dropout rate of the children from primary schools is also very alarming. The data from government and registered non-government primary schools show that almost half of the enrolled students dropped out before completing their primary education cycle. When the government is struggling to ensure the quality of primary education in state owned schools, even after taking different self and donor funded education projects, BRAC schools are showing consistently much better performance in national primary completion tests than the government schools. In 2009, a total of 252,040 students of BRAC primary schools participated in the grade 5 completion test and 97.4% of them passed the exam against 89% of national pass rate which clearly reflects BRAC's effective primary education mechanism (BRAC, 2011). Source – bdeduarticle.com
Jaago introduced their new movement, 'ALL' on Universal Children's Day (UCD); something that Jaago Foundation has been celebrating for the past few years. On this day, Jaago Foundation goes all around Bangladesh to as many districts as possible and provide a day for fun to all the underprivileged children they could gather. While the little ones enjoy a fun festive day, the chosen volunteers collect charity money from different signal points by selling roses.
Different campaigns taking place during the UCD.
The money usually is distributed to the Jaago Foundation schools around the country. And for the places where there aren't any Jaago schools—they give the money to the government institutes to improve their lab facilities etc. There were controversies from the previous years of how Jaago celebrated UCD. And how many volunteers just came for fun rather than being serious about raising money, but Jaago has managed to go past that, according to Korvi Rakhshan,d Founder of Jaago Foundation. He says, “We learned from our mistakes in the past and tried to put them right this time. I won't say hundred percent of the volunteers have given their best, but at least eighty percent did for sure. It has been over a week, and so far, there has not been any bad rumours about how we organised the event. That shows a difference. It has been five years since we started celebrating UCD and with every year we recognised our shortcomings and made sure they do not occur in the coming future.” This time around, to maintain strict rules and regulations, Jaago screen profiled all the volunteers before appointing them with their jobs. All the ones who got selected had to go all the way to the main office of Jaago at Rayar Bazaar to register their profiles. They all had to go through a mandatory procedure of verification and references. Workshops were also held to teach them how to approach people and tell them about the cause. They also had a money receipt system this time to keep a count of all the money the charity is making in case something bad goes on." Tabassum Muntarin Proma, a member of the Jaago foundation, says, “This time we had a lot less volunteers than the last time. We had a senior member from Jaago to monitor in each and every signal points where our volunteers were selling roses to make sure nothing goes wrong. I was at the Banani field with the Jaago Public Relation (PR) department; we were constantly updating our online pages and groups with live updates and pictures from all around the country where ver we had volunteers running around with roses.” Speaking of the carnival that they made in the Banani field on UCD for the underprivileged, the Jaago team was more than satisfied with the feedbacks. The carnival consisted of Nagordola for the kids, along with a 'banor khela' (monkey show). A medical centre for all was provided by 'Renata'. And a hand washing campaign by the Lifebuoy was held to teach the little ones that staying clean is mandatory. This time around with the introduction of the ALL, they had support coming from all over. Pictures internationally were being posted which said 'ALL', raising awareness all over the globe.
Jaago volunteers interacting with the underprivileged kids.
Depressingly enough, all these underprivileged children who attended the event had to go back to their daily lives the next day and started begging somewhere. “The underworld is like a chain, and these kids work under another person and it goes on. Whatever they collect in a day, they get a certain low share. So when we bring these children for a whole day, a lot of convincing needs to take place since their income for a day is banished. But we this time we got a positive reaction from those people as well. This time around, they were happy to let the kids have fun for a day,” says Rakhshand.
Speaking of the future plans for the children from 'Jaago Schools', Rakhshand says, “You can never assure hundred percent of the students will go through. So, I aim for at least fifty percent, of the children to go through to at least college. And for the other fifty percent we have departments under the Jaago Foundation where they can have a part time job. Workshops on graphics and arts will also be provided to them.
Coming back to 'ALL', Khondker Nasif Akhter, an official photographer of Jaago says, “Our generation complains a lot. We talk about change but when the change is needed, there is nobody. We have to understand that, before making a change we need to change ourselves first. This cannot be done in one day, it will take time. But we believe in possibilities and we believe quality education can be the first block to that wall of possibilities.”
'All will change if we change' is the new buzz Jaago is trying to spread, enough with just groups of organisations coming together and making a day of charity. It's time for all generations to participate, because only when participation will increase corruption will decrease. Equality rate will increase among us. “All of these can be done one step at a time. Just proper execution is needed. It doesn't matter if someone tries to shut us down or even if we do get shut down –maybe a decade or two from now, another generation will rise and will remember us for trying. We want this movement, not to just raise awareness amongst people but to motivate them to come forwards,” concludes Rakshand.
If 'ALL' goes well, a quality literate country is what we can see coming in the near future. A farfetched dream maybe? But that is how a proper vision starts and Jaago intends to full fill it.