‘Education is a battle against poverty that everyone should fight.’ – so said Nitin Namdeo. The problem is, apart from teachers, few people take up this battle.
One inspirational person who has risen to this challenge is Korvi Rakshand. In 2007, shunning the corporate career which one would presume from his education, Korvi created the Jaago Foundation to help educate the children from the slums of Dhaka.
There are many slums within Dhaka and other cities of Bangladesh. They are cleverly hidden away but are there if you look carefully enough.
The ramshackle tin huts and crumbling buildings house the service workers which Dhaka and other cities rely upon. The rick-shaw drivers, maids, cleaners, street sweepers and their families are crammed into one-room homes with poor sanitation. These workers are low-paid and uneducated. With little money and encouragement, children within the slums normally follow in their parent’s footsteps, missing school entirely or leaving early to take up low-paid work in order to help supplement the family earnings.
State schools do exist within the slums for these children but the facilities are poor and so is the standard of education. Children often don’t attend and certainly no one notices if they fail to turn up.
In this way, the cycle of poverty remains and a whole section of society within Bangladesh is unable to rise up the social hierarchy.
Jaago challenges this. It has set up 11 schools within slum areas across Dhaka and beyond. It offers an oasis of education for children from the age of 4 until 16. It provides high-quality, free education to over 4,500 children within the slums themselves. Children are provided not only with lessons following the national curriculum in English, but also a uniform, books and snacks. One child from each family within the slum is offered a place – a deliberate policy to get at least one person within each family educated whilst allowing other children to remain as workers to help supplement the family income.
We visited the Jaago Koralli junior school in a slum near the affluent Banani district of Dhaka. The approach was through the Government housed workers area. When this ended, the slum began. It was what you would expect. Disorganised, dirty, smelly and very, very poor. Small stalls lined the streets and people sold whatever they could from the floor in front of them.
The school appeared with a yellow frontage. As we stepped through the door, we entered another world. Children’s colourful artwork lined the walls and hung from the gantries built to support the 4 classrooms. The children milled around and were smiling, mostly in uniform and clearly delighted to be there.
We were shown around and then joined one of the classes. The students were in year 5 – aged around 7 or 8 – around 40 of them. I was invited to read to them from one of the set texts. The idea was they would repeat each line and follow the text in their books. I was reading in English and they did a really good job of following me and repeating although some were better than others. When we had finished children volunteered to read out sentences themselves. Some had an excellent grasp of English whilst others clearly lagged behind. The teacher explained that those who struggle are given additional support to try to keep them up.
It was a lovely experience to read and interact with the children. They seemed to enjoy having us there as afterwards, several of the girls surrounded Mina and revealed their ambitions to be doctors, airline pilots and scientists. It was amazing that those girls now had the hope to be something other than servants.
Before we left we saw some older, year 11 children who were getting extra lessons in business and engineering before they sat their GCSE equivalent exams. Although no longer 40 children in the class, it was incredible that these children had benefitted from the Jaago teaching since year 5 and were now on the brink of achieving qualifications which would propel them to another life. Even those who did not manage to achieve formal qualifications now have skills including English which has enabled them to escape the roles they would otherwise have been pre-programmed to undertake.
Mina and I had the pleasure to stay with Korvi and his wife whilst in Dhaka. They have been very generous to us but their generosity to the children is the most telling. Korvi explained to us that several of his students were now at university including two who had been offered scholarships to universities in America!
The cost to educate a child from the slum is just £20 per month – a pretty insignificant amount for most people. Currently they have just over 700 children unsponsored so please let us know if you would like to help. You will be given personal updates from the team at Jaago and you can even have virtual meetings on-line directly with your sponsored child.
It takes someone special to have a vision and see it through to the end. Korvi’s vision has helped thousands of destitute children. Those he and sponsors have helped will themselves help their families and their children for years to come. This is how the cycle of poverty is broken.