Making a Difference
Notre Dame Literacy School: Serving the Dispossessed
Omar Rashid Chowdhury
While education is wrought with tears and is a toil for the masses, it turns out to be a mere commodity for the privileged. The Notre Dame College (NDC), Dhaka, stands in stark contrast to this practice. In its half-a-century journey, the Notre Dame Literacy School (NDLS) has made itself a haven for education for the deprived. With aims to liberate the deprived children from the cycle of illiteracy and poverty, the school fights all the anomalies present within the education system.
NDLS strives to light the light of literacy in the society. Photo Credit: Meraj Rubayet Kamal
Established in 1972, the school has since then paid its humble homage to society with efforts of lighting the light of literacy among the less fortunate ones. The Fathers of the Holy Cross Congregation initiated the literacy programme in a few of the slums nearby Kamlapur Railway Station. This seemingly small initiative has now taken deep roots and flourished to be a great enterprise of education for the deprived.
Housed in a neat tin-shade structure with a playground that is draped with flowers and greenery, the school from child section to class VIII boasts of more than 1,200 students and 40 teachers. The fees are often partially or fully waivered considering the student's financial conditions. Students are granted along with free tiffin, National Curriculum and Text book Board (NCTB) recommended text books and other rapid readers, free of cost. Apart from distributing forms, the school authority takes initiatives to encourage children in the nearby areas to get admitted to the school.
All shackles of ignorance fall away as their minds reach out for dreams.
Photo Credit: Meraj Rubayet Kamal
The Headmaster, Xavier Gomez, mentions that a few adults also study in the school. Apart from part time teachers who are mostly students, there are permanent teachers as well. “You find solace in your soul teaching here,” says Mr Sumon Chiron, a teacher of NDLS and a former student of NDC.
With 97 percent and 87 percent pass-rates in the concluding exams of grades V and VIII, the school shows sparks of promise. Books are lent out weekly from the school library to the students to nurture the habit of reading. Students create wall magazines, maintain regular bulletin boards and attend drawing, physical and moral education classes. A cultural week is also organised every year. International Mother Language day, Parents' and Teachers' Day, Annual Sports day and award ceremonies are observed with great enthusiasm. Small plots adjacent to the school, are used by students for gardening. Exciting excursions are also arranged annually.
It is made sure that students communicate and co-operate actively with their teachers. Father Adam S Pereira, student counselor, teacher of NDC and a member of governing board of the NDLS, says that serving humanity and educating the deprived have always been the concern of the founding fathers of the school. All shackles of ignorance fall away as their minds reach out for dreams.
In these dangerous times of tyranny, inequality and indifference, Notre Dame College has set an extraordinary example. As academic institutions turn their faces away from the deprived masses and education tends to be a privilege reserved for the rich, NDLS remains adamant in its dream to deliver hope to the destitute.
As dusk spreads its gold and purple wings across a ruddy sky, a handful of merry boys and girls enter the Notre Dame College premises. With coarse hands and creased clothes and ripples of laughter, they are the children of tomorrow. Clutching their books, they are not afraid as dusk falls with its darkness now aglow with flames of love, knowledge and dreams.
(The author is a student of BUET and a former student of Notre Dame College.)
DID YOU KNOW
Hans Christian Andersen
When he was just 14, Hans Christian Andersen convinced his mother to let him try his luck in Copenhagen, Denmark, rather than studying to become a tailor! When she asked why, he replied, "I'll become famous! First you suffer cruelly, and then you become famous." He tried to become a singer, a dancer, and an actor, but he failed in all. When he was 17, he was offered a second chance to receive an education. But he was a poor student. He never learned how to spell or how to write in Danish. As a result his writing style remained close to the spoken language and still sounds fresh today, unlike the work of other writers from the same era! After spending 7 years at school, mostly under the supervision of a principal who seems to have hated him, Andersen celebrated the passing of his university exams in 1828 by writing his first narrative!
Information source: Internet.