How a Scout project built and sent children to school
Primary education is free for all children in Bangladesh from grades one through five. However, access to education remains a challenge for vulnerable groups, particularly working children, disabled children, indigenous children and those in remote areas or living in extreme poverty.
According to UNICEF Bangladesh, only half of the children living in slums attend school, a rate 18 percent lower than the national average.
The Crystal Open Scouts of Bangladesh wanted to change that.
In 2009, Crystal Open Scouts travelled across the county to search for a potential location for a community development project. They found three villages in Lalmonirhat district - Char Folimari, Nagadtarir Char and Osman Tantir Char – home to 232 families. Char is the Bangla word for silted land-mass rising out of a riverbed. They were located in sandbars in the middle of the river Dharla, and people were living in extreme poverty. The villages were generally known as among the most poverty-ridden villages in the country.
These villages had no access to education due to its remote location. There were no developed roads, no access to electricity, no medical facility. Sanitation was a problem. Incidents of early child marriage were high. Maternal and infant mortality were higher.
In 2010, a group of Rover Scouts went to the villages and held a 3-day community development camp. As part of the projects of the camp, they constructed the village’s only primary school and named it ‘Smrity Roy Crystal Scout Primary School.’ Students were taught about science, mathematics, health and basic information and communications technology.
At that time, the school only had one teacher and 17 students.
With the help of external donors, four more classrooms were built by the Rover Scouts in order to accommodate the growing number of students. More teachers volunteered every year. Rover Scouts also volunteered 5 to 6 times a year to teach the students on specific areas and to do other community development projects.
The Smrity Roy Crystal Scout Primary School eventually became a fully functional primary school with over 135 students, and four full-time teachers. Consistently, the passing rate of the students is at 100%, besting many other schools in the district.
Parents who were reluctant at first to send their children to school eventually saw the worth in what the Scouts were doing – equipping their children with life skills, preparing them for the real world. More than that, they realised that there’s more for their children; they began to dream big for their family, they began to see the bright future ahead.
In 2014, 5th Grade students passed the Primary School Certification Examination administered by the government of Bangladesh. These were the first students from the villages to finish primary school.
The cost of education at the Smrity Roy Crystal Scout Primary School is free – from educational materials, uniforms and they even receive monthly stipends. This was made possible thru the ‘Sponsor a Child’ initiative of the Crystal Open Scouts, sourcing out donations from sponsors, relatives and friends. Even after primary school, the children still get some financial support to continue their education thru high school.
The project eventually gained support from the national leadership of the Bangladesh Scouts. The number of volunteers and donors increased.
On top the schools, Rover Scouts from Bangladesh also engaged in different initiatives and projects for the villages. Artesian wells [tube wells] were constructed, giving the villagers access to clean and safe water. Medical missions are also constantly being conducted, tending to the medical needs of the villagers. Livelihood programs are flourishing; parents are also given orientation-seminars about health and sanitation, environmental protection and income generation.
The villages from Char Folimari, Nagadtarir Char and Osman Tantir Char have begun calling their villages as “Scout et Char” or translated as ‘The Scout Village.’
The children from these villages were taught like Scouts, to become principal agents of their development as committed, responsible, self-reliant and supportive persons.
With reports from Sarwar Mohammad Shahriar, National Commissioner for Public Relations and Marketing of the Bangladesh Scouts.