Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

Another one

Moanoghar is taking on another volunteer, a retired teacher from the UK, for 2 months from January. Despite this having absolutely nothing to do with me and my placement (as I don’t really have anything to do with the school here), I’ve found myself irresistibly drawn in. Kind of like a moth to a flame. A flame that is the disaster that this will become if someone (i.e. me) doesn’t get involved.

The volunteer has been introduced directly by one of Moanoghar’s donors, and is no way connected to VSO or any other volunteering agency. But coincidentally, this guy has volunteered with VSO before, in Bangladesh, in 1964. Or at least he volunteered in the then East Pakistan. Wild. Anyway, so he’s back, looking for ways to add value in these, his golden years. I am always amazed by people who voluntarily give up their comfortable lives to travel across the globe to work in an under-developed country like Bangladesh. Oh. Yes. That is what I’ve done. But somehow it doesn’t quite feel like that. Perhaps because of the amount I moan about things, I don’t really see myself as particularly  virtuous, nor do I have an image of myself gliding around making selfless sacrifices, saving the world at every turn. I mean really, at this point I’m just trying to make it through the rest of my placement, complete my mostly-in-tatters workplan, and NOT have the next VSO volunteer’s main comments be ‘But what did Estelle DO here for a year? I can’t see any evidence of capacity building…’

Anyway, enough about me… back to this new volunteer. I get the feeling that throwing random people at a problem is often the most attractive solution here. Never mind if the people have no idea what they are supposed to be doing here. But that is this particular donor all over, everything he does is haphazard, at best. But you know, what he says goes… irrespective of blindingly obvious flaws or gaping holes. This poor volunteer, who honestly and earnestly wants to help, is really just being thrown into this without so much as an agreement on what kind work he’ll actually be doing here. And he’s only here for 2 months. Given my first two months here, I foresee his time here being spent trying to have conversations with people who just aren’t around, who don’t understand, who aren’t interested, who are confused, who have a totally different view of what he’s here to do, and (some) who just don’t care. Two months is nothing in the scheme of things, and it’s almost worse than nothing if there isn’t at least some level of planning before he arrives.

Anyhoo, so I’m involved. The least I can do is what I would have liked someone to have done for me before I arrived. Or what I was told VSO had done before I arrived… So I’ve had some discussions, taken ideas and suggestions from all parties, and got some basic information about the school together. And here I found another hard to understand Bangladeshi government degree: A school day must have at least 7  different classes a day for any given standard/class. So if you do the maths (or look at the school timetable like I have), that is 7 classes in 6 hours (the school hours are also dictated by the Gov) with one 30 minute break (this break time might also dictated by the ol’ Gov). This has resulted in one class a day that is 20 minutes long. 20 minutes. For classes of at LEAST 70 students (some classes here have over 100 students). 20 minutes. I know I’m repeating myself, but think about it. 20 minutes. Enough time to say good morning, open your book, read a few sentences, put your book away, and say good bye? Maybe this guy can have a look at adding value in the timetable area… and can find out if this 7 classes a day thing really, really, actually has to be followed. I mean, really?

1 Comment»

  Julie wrote @

I feel an A to Z of Moanoghar coming on. I look forward to reading M, for Memory.


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