"Illuminating them": A community-driven project for spreading education

Akriti Manandhar, Chittagong Community Manager
Chittagong, 25 February 2016

Bangladesh is one of the most populated countries in the world and, because of overpopulation, has lot of children living in slum areas. Most of these children are deprived of proper education. Chittagong, a major coastal seaport city of Bangladesh, has many such families living in slums. For an overpopulated country like Bangladesh, the government cannot reach out to all of its population to improve education, despite having related policies. Children who do not go to school are not sent to school by their parents because of lack of finance or lack of awareness about the importance of education. Once they become a teenager, they are sent to work as maids, or at construction sites to earn for their family. The children who are to be the future of the country are not getting proper education, which could perpetuate a vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy. Basic education is important for getting better jobs, better opportunities and personal development, leading to urban development and economic prosperity of the country.

One of the projects being carried out in Chittagong using participatory methodology is "Illuminating them." The program is being initiated by youths from academic institutions in Chittagong gathered under an organization named “Youth’s Voice.” These youths want to turn the problem of overpopulation in Chittagong into an advantage by utilizing the human capital to build on more human capital for the country. These volunteers, who are from class nine to undergraduate students, teach slum children. These youths are enthusiastic volunteers who are willing to contribute their time and energy to spread the knowledge that they have obtained in their academic institutions. According to one of the volunteer teachers, they teach basic English, math, Bengali language and science education to the slum children who regularly attend these classes. They usually focus on giving these children a moral foundation so that they can take good and calculated decisions in the future for their as well as community’s betterment. The children and parents are first interviewed to know the level of child’s knowledge in different subjects taught through this project. The children are then grouped according to the knowledge they have in the subjects for efficiency in teaching and learning.

This initiative is not just limited to educating the slum children. It connects to larger processes by also educating the children’s parents so that they understand the importance of education to be willing to send their children to these classes. The parents are introduced to Bengali and English alphabets. They are also taught some negotiation and basic English skills that are important for their daily life.

The city of Chittagong appreciates this community-driven idea. More youth are joining this project, leading to its sustainability. People realize that though government might be spending a large sum of money for improvement in education sector, a simultaneous citizen-led approach is needed, too. Chittagong has been experimenting with participatory processes, especially through youth involvement. More youth are getting involved in social initiatives so as to develop their community and spread education.

Photo credit: Youth's Voice

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