By Syed Anik:
Education in its broadest sense is a general term, which is basically defined as a means by which the norms, values and skill set of a certain group of people are transferred from one generation to the next. Any experience that has a decisive effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts can be considered education, which is often taught by means of formal schooling.
In layman terms, any experience in life can be considered a learning experience, and hence can be called education. Education in its technical and broadest sense comes with numerous benefits and they are more than academic success and a good career. A good education is essential to the development of mental health, ethics, morals, individuality, and character, and so on and so forth, and as such stands for each and every individual of Bangladesh.
Recognising the fact that education for these children should be a part of their lives, certain youth of our nation have come forward to make an attempt at changing the present scenario, and this brings us to the subject matter of our article today. Introducing Pathakoli Pathshala, which is a school that strives to provide education for underprivileged street children absolutely free of cost. The school started its journey from the March of 2011, with a small space at the Suhrawardi Uddyan, which is owned by the PWD. The school itself is a volunteer organisation and is run by students hailing from different educational institutions.
Amit, a 9-year-old child who dwells on the streets of Dhaka, was seen writing Bangla alphabets at this school in Suhrawardi Uddyan. Due to his financial standing, he was unable to attend a regular school. He is one of the many thousands of street children who are deprived of education and their rights to an education. Upon hearing from his friends of an institution that provided education free of cost, he came to Pathakoli Pathshala last year and ever since is quite happy. He aspires to carry on his education and dreams of becoming a pilot one day.
Upon paying a visit to Pathakoli Pathshala, the Joven witnessed the institution in action, that is to say, children getting an opportunity to study in an entertaining atmosphere. Mohammad Farid Hossain, one of the three founders of the school, says, ‘My friends from college and I would regularly visit the Suhrawardi Udyan and upon seeing the state of these children we decided to help them. Consequently, I, along with Syed Minhaj Hossain and Sazzad Hossain Tuhin, founded the school in March 2011. As of now, we are happy to say that we have 40 students.’
The school currently provides 30 dedicated teachers, books, stationary and food once a day for the students; all of the above is being funded completely by its members. Utilising the money gathered in the communal fund, the members have set up an ice gola shop in the nearby park. They receive Tk.5 from each gola that is sold and that money goes directly into the school fund.
The school’s curriculum falls under two categories: basic level and advanced level, correspondingly. A student at the basic level learns the alphabets and numbers. At the advanced level, students learn as per the national curriculum, beginning with Grade 1, which will consequently lead to an SSC followed by HSC. Furthermore, the school has also planned to admit these children to prominent schools once they have attained a certain level of education.
We witnessed Mohammad Tuhin Akhter Rana, another student at the school, playing in the grounds behind the school. Rana’s mother sells flowers on the streets to get by and hence does not have the financial ability to enrol him at a prominent school. Therefore, upon hearing of Pathakoli Pathshala, she did not hesitate to send him there. Upon asking Rana about his experiences in the school, he happily said, ‘I had heard about this school from my friends and since I joined, it has been a year, and I love studying here. The teachers are very friendly and cooperative.’ As of now, this young man hopes to engage in service once his education is complete and wants to contribute to the well-being of his family in the near future.
Reminiscent of Amit and Rana, there are thousands of underprivileged street children for whom an education is a farfetched thought, because they are struck with poverty. Since they do not have a place to live and some of them are orphans, they live on the streets. Rather than dream of education and a better life, they search for odd jobs, and sometimes get involved in anti-social activities to make a quick buck. This is where Pathakoli Pathshala stands out in helping to change the very fate of those who cannot afford the means to a fruitful life.
Although primary education is a constitutionally-provided free and compulsory right, there are several factors hindering these children from receiving an education. One such factor is family ties and the financial barriers that fall with it, as many parents can’t bear the cost of sending their children to schools.
There are many voluntary schools akin to Pathakoli Pathshala and they are adamantly working to help the underprivileged children attain an education. These schools are dedicated to providing an education that is free of cost to the impoverished children of Bangladesh, so that sooner or later they can disentangle themselves from their state of poverty and make a place for themselves in Bangladesh as free and productive Bangladeshi citizens.
The above scenario demonstrates that the collective and dedicated efforts of our youth today can help many a child to attain an education and never feel deprived of happiness. If we, the youth, can better work together to increase awareness with regards to this situation, we can collectively influence others, directly or indirectly, to do something good and demonstrate our abilities to bring forth something exceptional for our society and in turn for our nation and our country.[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author:
Syed Anik is a journalism student at Stamford University Bangladesh, Dhaka, Bangladesh. To read his other posts, click here.[/box]