Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

Education

The school year is starting soon. Or it has already started. I’m not sure. Some classes are running, but only some students attend. Others say there is no need to attend them. And that’s just the students who have arrived back at Moanoghar after the holidays. Many are still on holiday. I guess the start of a school year is a fluid concept here. That said, many students are from very remote villages, that take days to travel to. By foot. Yes, walking for days to get back to school. So one can understand the fluidity of the academic year.

These last few days have seen Moanoghar’s admission exams for new students. Which is drawing quite the crowd from all over the Hill Tracts. Moanoghar’s reputation spreads far and wide, into the remote areas where schools don’t exist, or are a half day trek away or if they DO exist, barely function. Bengali teachers don’t want to work in the Hill Tracts because it’s too remote, and there are not enough indigenous teachers. So while education is free* in Bangladesh, it certainly does not mean that every child actually gets an education.

Moanoghar plays such an amazing role in the Hill Tracts, providing residential accommodation for indigenous children, enabling them to receive an otherwise out of reach education. Which mean that it is totally over-subscribed, with classrooms already busting at the seams, sometimes with 100 students in a class. It simply can’t accept all the students that apply. Hence the admission test. I don’t really know how students are tested, but there are many of them here to be tested. Joined by their parents, or guardians. So that’s are a lot of people here from remote areas, who in many cases have never seen a foreigner in the flesh before. I am quite the curiosity.

Most of the students’ guardians are illiterate, and the whole process involved in signing their kiddies up for school is totally foreign and confusing for them. You can see how bewildered they are, and how their lack of education is a real barrier for them in situations like this. They desperately want their children to receive an education, and to have a better life than they have had. Thankfully Moanoghar treats everyone with the patience and respect they deserve in navigating this process. I shudder to think how these indigenous folks would be treated if applying at a Bengali run school…

It’s just so desperately unfair that many children in this world don’t get an education. Their chances in life are shot to shit by being denied something so basic, a fundamental human right. Knowing that some children will be turned away from Moanoghar, which in reality means being turned away from an education, just breaks my heart. Into little pieces. It makes me cry inside. I want to storm into the developed world, rip apart the excessive spending habits and haul that money over here. And give it these people so their children can get an education. Apparently Posh (aka Victoria Beckham) recently spent £1 million on a shopping spree in Milan. In a day. One. Million. Pounds. In a day. I mean, really. COME ON. WFT, times a million.

Life. It’s just not fair.

In other, more light hearted  news, I saw my first Chakma dwarf yesterday.

* Teachers salaries are paid by the government, and school text books are also provide free of charge. However, teachers are paid a pittance, often don’t turn up (not here in Moanoghar though), the quality of teacher training is poor and text books often don’t arrive until AFTER the exams. And there are more costs involved in running a school, like electricity, maintenance, furniture etc which aren’t covered by the government. And residential accommodation is another cost for students who don’t have access to a local school.

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