Boats for Bangladesh

| March 26, 2013 | 0 Comments

Flooding frequently affects education in Bangladesh. A volunteer at non-profit organisation Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, working in the Chalanbeel region, explains: “Bangladesh has the highest rural population density in the world – about 1 209 people per square kilometre.

The poorest segment of the population is forced to live in remote riverside areas. At least 30% of people are unemployed and at least 50% live below the poverty line. “With a very high density of river systems, large parts of Bangladesh remain submerged during five months of monsoon. Climate change has increased the flooding in recent years – now Bangladesh has monsoon floods two times a year.”

During monsoon season, hundreds of schools must close – so, in 2002, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha started a solar-powered boat school system. These simple floating structures each cater to 30 children and are made from locally sourced natural materials. Each has rooftop solar panels, a small library, a printer, mobile phone and a laptop with internet connectivity. Each boat collects its quota of pupils from various riverside villages and docks at a final destination during class time.

After class, the children will be sailed home and a new round of classes collected and schooled in a unique river-based environmental learning programme that incorporates elements of the national curriculum. The last class is adult literacy and life skills at the end of the day, after which families take small solar-powered lanterns to use at home.

Say Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha teachers: “Along the winding rivers that flow around the mud-hut villages, mosques and rice fields here, the boat schools are so loved that crowds of children cheer upon seeing them dock. “The rivers do not have to be barriers to information. They can be communication channels.”

Category: Autumn 2013

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