Creating hope

Sharmin Chowdhury visits PSD, a school for underprivileged children, that has come up with an innovative idea to support slum children with their educational expenses through a programme called Aponjon Prokolpo.

I want to be a doctor’ says Rahima, a student of class three. Likewise, Nasrin, Josna, Kobita, Juthi, Bina, all express inside03their desire to become doctors in future.

    Dressed in their colourful uniform in red and green, the children studying enthusiastically are not a part of the privileged group who can afford formal education. In fact, the children are the residents of Peyarabag slum and are the students of a charitable school, named Program for Sustainable Development (PSD) School.

   The slum children are being educated here under the programme Shopno moder manush hobo run by PSD. The school started in 2001 with a view to include the slum children in education.

   ‘We wanted to bring about a change in the society by creating an opportunity for the unprivileged segment of the society. Thus, we came up with the idea of the school,’ said Shibnath Sarker the secretary general of PSD.

   ‘We started with 20 children and now we have 130 students in our school. At first we had to go and approach the guardians but after seeing our effort, guardians themselves now come to us requesting us to enrol their children in our school,’ he added.

   PSD school does not just educate the children; it supports an entire family to manage a sustainable development by supporting the mother with sewing training or by arranging jobs in the garments etc. They also support the father with his business through micro credit loans. So far, PSD has supported sixty families of the Peyarabaag slum and they now live a better life.

   The school conducts non formal primary education but follows the government curriculum. The drop out rate is almost zero and if any student wants to continue after class five, PSD school arranges the admission of the student in some mainstream school.

   PSD aims to include at least five hundred slum children in their education system within the next five years. Moreover, the school also creates an opportunity for the students to indulge into an array of co-curricular activities like painting, dancing, acting and singing through separate classes.

   The main problem that the institution is facing is not having enough funds. Some organisations like Agami Inc, Bangladesh Federation of University Women etc have come forth with financial support but only occasionally. There is no fixed fund to run the programme. For this reason, PSD has come up with an idea to support the children with their educational expenses through their programme called Aponjon Prokolpo.

   Aponjon Prokolpo is an initiative to bridge the gap between the privileged and the unprivileged segment of the society. The idea is that, one person from the privileged segment of the society will take up the educational responsibility of one child of the school. All one has to do is to pay a yearly fee of taka six thousand for the child. The person would be called the child’s educational parent.

   One person can take up the responsibility of more than one child. The programme started in 2008 and so far thirty-five students of the school have educational parents.

   ‘We started verbally informing people about our idea when we were searching for educational parents,’ said Shirin Rahman, the president of the school. ‘Those who appreciated have come forth and took up at least one child as their responsibility. One parent can take up the responsibility of more than one child if he wants. But since the idea is passing through mouth to mouth, we have not been able to reach many people,’ she added.

   Rahman also informed that the young generation has shown an amazing enthusiasm in supporting the kids with their education.

   ‘Last February 21, we arranged a get-together of all the educational parents and the guardians of the children, where the young educational parents in their speech referred to the children as ‘my son/daughter’. It inspired the children and their guardians a lot,’ she added.

   The cost of each child a month is Tk 500. Within this amount, the school arranges their uniform, books, pencils etc. and tiffiin for the child.

   ‘We wanted to give them heavy tiffin because all these children are in their growing years and thus need extra nutrition. I might be able to do it once in a while but with the little fund we have, it is not possible to do that on a regular basis,’ said Rahman.

   ‘Once someone becomes an educational parent we expect that with the payment of yearly taka six thousand and two dresses on Eid, the person would also grow an interest in the development of the child, monitored by us,’ said Sarker.

   ‘We also want that the child and the educational parent to build up an attachment, so that the child gets a support from the parent even after he/she finishes school,’ he added.

   To spend taka six thousand a year is perhaps not an issue for many and many parent do a lot more for the children than what is expected from them. Some of the educational parents bring in fruits and others food for the children of the school out of their own interest, informed Rahman.

   ‘We believe there are many people who can and who would want to help these children,’ said Rahman. ‘We need to reach out to them to tell them that PSD makes it easier to contribute and perform one’s social responsibility.’

   ‘So far we have educational parents for only 35 children out of 130. We need the number to grow. We hope more people would extend their hands to help these children and thus help the society,’ concluded Rahman with this plea.

   To join the project contact Shibnath Sarker
   451 Greenway, Magbazaar, Dhaka.
   Phone: 01711642622

Source: The Daily New Age, Xtra, 12 June 2009


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