Hamida Khatun with her eleven years old daughter Samia outside the school. Hamida has been involved in school and now it belongs to the best in the region.
Photo: Therese Arnstorp
Hamida Khatun in Bangladesh
Hamida Khatun's eleven-year-old daughter Samia attends the school in the little village outside of Jessore in south-west Bangladesh. She has contributed to the willingness and enjoyment with which the children now go to school. By getting mothers involved and listening to their opinions, better results have been achieved.
“I don't need to force Samia to go to school any more. She's taken an interest and has managed to get good results,” Hamida Khatun explains.
There has been a change in attitude among pupils and parents. Here, just as with many other schools in Bangladesh, the problem was that the children did not come to school and that they left early. School work seemed pointless and parents felt the children benefited more from being at home or in work.
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) and their local organization in Jessore are behind the school's success. It all started with a survey among the parents, which revealed complaints about there being a lack of teachers, no toilets, lack of space and an unfair distribution of scholarships.
“I'm very happy about what has been done,” says Hamida. “Our children are our biggest asset and we need to look after them.”
TIB has been campaigning in different ways. Getting the mothers involved and making them aware of their rights and the school's responsibilities was one of these.
One of the first issues which was dealt with was the lack of teachers. The school has 500 pupils, and had appropriation for four teachers. But only one worked every day – the others turned up here and there. The low wage forces many to seek extra income elsewhere, and the level of commitment was very low. The school now has seven teachers, but there are still a lot of children per class and the teachers are working hard to limit the classes to 40 children each.
“We have a playground where the children can play,” the rector explains. “I wish that we could also offer school lunches, but we can't afford that. But we've come quite a long way, and as of last year we are now able to take in handicapped children.”
In Bangladesh, many areas have problems with arsenic from the bedrock seeping into the wells. Because of this, a deep well was dug for the school, giving them access to clean water. Classes are now more fun, and the children learn more. Everyone appreciates the lessons about hygiene and lifestyle.
The school's chairperson explains that during the national examinations, it is not just the pupils who are nervous. All the mothers go with their children to school and wait in the grounds while their children take the exam. The exam results are then posted at the school and the top three pupils receive prizes.
“In addition, we award prizes to the mothers of the top three pupils,” the school's chairperson says, smiling contently. In this way, they become even more committed to their children's schooling.
Improve the road that leads to school so that it does not turn into a river of mud during the monsoon period, plant trees to create some shade for the playground, more latrines, additional classrooms, a library with competitions...there are endless suggestions for ways in which to make the school even better. But already, the school is a model in the region.
Hamida wants Samia to do well in school and to have other opportunities than she had. Samia herself says that she wants to be a doctor, so that she can help other children.