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     Volume 8 Issue 90 | October 16, 2009 |

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“Shopno Moder Manush Hobo”

Sanjana Tarannum

A small procession in green was moving along the roads of Bara Maghbazar- a procession of six to eight-year-olds with faces oddly lit up at that hour of the morning, a procession moving towards the ultimate freedom-- education. If a curious onlooker followed their trail, it would lead him/her to the final destination of their pilgrimage- the PSD school: “Shopno Moder Manush Hobo”.

PSD or Programme for Sustainable Development is a non-government organisation dedicated to the socio-economic development of the poor and the underprivileged. It began its journey in 2001 with the combined efforts and aspirations of the Director Shireen Rahman, Secretary General Shibnath Sarkar and a board of advisers. Non-formal education of the children of Pearabagh slum and surrounding area in Maghbazar is a unique programme of this organisation. As a pilot project, this programme started a school named “Shopno Moder Manush Hobo” in 2001 with only 20 students. Today it has 130 students in classes Pre One to Five. After the completion of Class V, PSD helps these children to enter the mainstream of formal education and complete their secondary and higher secondary education. Sixty percent of the students are females. Such a majority is basically an endeavour to boost up the neglected female population of the country.

Most of the students come from poor families. “Unguided, these children would have wasted their childhood on the streets fending for themselves and growing up to be juvenile delinquents and burdens of the society,” says Sarkar. “So we are providing these underprivileged children from hard-core poor families a decent opportunity at education,” he says.

Along with basic education, art, music and drama are practised regularly at the school.


The school is located at 451, Greenway, Maghbazar. The morning assembly is held in the playground. While classes of Pre-one, one and two are held in the morning shift, the older children in classes three to five attend school in the noon. The classrooms are spacious and well ventilated accommodating about 20 to 30 students; the playground is an assortment of slides and see saws. Books, copies and stationery are free as is the tiffin provided during recess. During break, the children play, run and sing in chorus. It is a lively environment, a joyful place. Nine-year-old Abdur Rahim Badshah says that he loves coming to school and studying with his friends. Even though he has to walk quite a distance to come to school, he never misses his classes.

Besides education, the school nurtures the latent faculties of the students. Art, music, drama are practised regularly. Annual cultural events as well as study tours and programmes on national days (such as the International Mother Language Day) are held with spontaneous and enthusiastic participation of the students. Eight-year-old Irin Akhtar a student of Class I is a regular performer at the cultural events. Passionately she sings in a sweet clear voice "Amra Korbo Joy" (we shall overcome).

Hosne Ara Polly has been working for a year at this school and says, “The students are intelligent, dedicated and diligent. They are obedient, cooperative and it has been a wonderful experience teaching them.” When asked about how she came to know about the school, she mentions the school uniform being an advertisement in itself. However she admits that her students often use inappropriate words they have picked up from the slum environment. “Norms of conduct and decency which a child usually learns at home have to be taught here with patience. Sometimes it proves to be a little more challenging than expected,” she says. It is the teacher who moulds the pliable minds of tomorrow's leaders either artistically or grotesquely. Keeping in mind their profound impact, the teachers engage in shaping the ideas and ambitions of their youthful charges.

Shibnath's Sarker's "Shopno Moder Manush Hobo" has enabled underprivileged children to dare to dream.

Like almost any other project in Bangladesh, funding is one of the major problems. “The APANJAN (Dear One) Project is a unique step towards overcoming the financial obstacles,” says Shibnath Sarkar. “In this project, people from the locality are encouraged to step forward and help mitigate the funding crisis”. Under this project launched in 2008, anyone can become involved with the school by funding and providing for one or more students directly. These “Education Parents” bear the responsibility of furthering the dreams of their wards to become successful and accomplished citizens. They could also help the school by bearing expenses incurred such as salaries of the teachers, rent, nutrition expenses of the students, etc. Many local and some non-resident Bangladeshis responded by signing up with this project to help make a difference. The first meeting between the parents and students was held on February 21, 2009 introducing the benefactor to the beneficiaries. It was a chance for these deprived children to catch a glimpse of what they could be, of what life had to offer if they were willing enough.

Among other problems are limited seats. “Every year many parents turn up to enrol their children in this school but limited number of seats compels us to turn them away,” says Sarkar. Health facilities are almost non existent. “Students of broken families drop out often to support the single parent who fails to provide food and clothing for the family. Education is then an unaffordable luxury, a restraint on their time which could have been fruitfully utilised in many of the industries that employ child labourers,” explains Layla Akhtar, a teacher at PSD School.

Many prospective students have to be turned away due to limited seats.

PSD has a three-year plan (2009-2011) to expand educational opportunities to nearby slums under Khilgaon thana and to enrol about 50 to 100 students every year under primary education. Another pragmatic approach towards eradication of poverty is providing vocational training to the students in the near future. These endeavours have finally been acknowledged. “Shopno Moder Manush Hobo” has recently been approved by the DHL as a praiseworthy project of PSD. Such other achievements and recommendations are surely on the way if this programme continues its exemplary work efficiently in the future. However, their true achievement lies in the successful “redemption” of the students from the cursed life of poverty and illiteracy says the Secretary General.

Ten-year-old Juthi Akter studies in class 3. Her father is a welder and her mother is a domestic helper. When asked about the ambition of her life, she says “I want to be a doctor when I grow up and serve the people for free."

Dreams were unrealistic ambitions for her parents, life was a lost war. So they sought out the opportunity to make life a challenge for their children, a challenge which could end both in triumph or defeat. It is for “Shopno Moder Manush Hobo” of PSD that children like Juthi now dare to dream. May be the journey will take them from blissful ignorance to harsh reality, but it is definitely worth it.

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