The Floating Schools of Chalan Beel
Aug 8 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh) – They don’t go to schools, schools come to them.
Currently, some 2,000 underprivileged children are attending classes in 22 floating schools that move across the Chalan Beel in Pabna, Natore and Sirajganj districts.
The schools are locally called “Noukay School”.
Recently, they have also started providing basic agricultural training to underprivileged women, and library facilities and computer training to those interested in the districts.
The floating schools are run by Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha (SSS), a non-profit organisation with the NGO Affairs Bureau of the Prime Minister’s Office. SSS says it aims to transform the region’s waterways into pathways for education, information and technology.
The first such school was introduced in Singra upazila of Natore in 2002.
In no time, it became quite popular among the people of Chalan Beel areas which remain submerged for months, said SSC officials.
Today, 22 floating schools operate in Chatmohar and Bhangura upazilas of Pabna, Gurudashpur and Singra upazilas of Natore and Tarash upazila of Sirajganj, added the officials.
Many Chalan Beel areas remain under water for four to six months every year, making it almost impossible for children in remote areas to reach their usual primary schools, said Suprokash Poul, coordinator of the school programme.
Every day, each floating school has three shifts having some 30 students, he said.
Talking to this correspondent, some of the locals said the schools were benefitting them in many ways.
“We get training on crop cultivation in submerged land during the monsoon. We also learn how to cultivate paddy, jute and vegetables and protect crops from pests without using harmful chemical pesticides,” said Bulbuli Khatun, a housewife from Kalinagar village in Natore’s Singra upazila.
Abu Sayed, a college student from the same upazila, said, “There is no computer facility in our village. We had to go some 30 miles to learn computers. But now, we get this facility on our doorsteps.”
A total of 39 boats — 22 of which are being used as floating schools, 10 as library and computer labs and seven as training centres — are moving across the Chalan Beel region, said Suprokash.
However, the number of the boats was not enough to meet the need of people living in such a vast area like Chalan Beel.
Asked, Suprokash said the SSS was working to introduce more such boats in the area.
This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh