Bangladesh is one of the world’s poorest and most densely populated countries. Poverty in Bangladesh is deep and widespread: almost half the population lives on less than $1 a day. According to UNICEF, 26.5 million Bangladeshi children live below the national poverty line, 33 million below the international poverty line.
Consequently the plight of poor families in Bangladesh is desperate and access to basic essentials is scarce. UNICEF estimates that over 5 million children between 5 and 14 years old are sent out to work, often in dangerous conditions, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Cox’s Bazar tourist beach is an area of outstanding natural beauty, yet it is ravaged by extreme poverty. As a result, rather than learning or playing, Bangladeshi children need to work to support their families.
They work in the fish markets, or along the coast line selling shell bracelets and catching prawns. These children have no funding or time to attend school, and little chance to enjoy the opportunities that should be inherent in childhood.
What we are doing to help
We believe these children deserve to have an education, a chance just to be children and to have fun. This is why, together with our partner MUKTI, we support nine Community Schools specifically set up to help children who work the Cox’s Bazar beach area.
900 young workers attend the centres for two to three hours a day. Here they receive a nutritious snack, attend lessons, freshen up with a wash and have the chance to play and rest with their friends.
We do not support child labour, but recognise that children in the most extreme situations of poverty often have no other option but to contribute to their families income in order to survive.
This innovative programme has developed a flexible model to meet the educational needs of these children close to where they live and work, whilst working closely with their families to foster greater understanding of the importance of education.
Each class at the schools follows the government-approved curriculum for literacy, writing, maths and science. We provide students a school uniform and book bag, giving them a sense of pride and belonging.
Alongside crucial literacy and numeracy education that follows the BRAC curriculum, emphasis is placed upon creative expression and play, with daily time assigned for art, dance or group play. Teachers are trained to encourage students to think critically about their circumstances and how to seek positive outcomes. Children express their views and represent the views of their peers through Child Councils.
Staff work alongside children’s families, encouraging long term commitment to and support for their children’s education and consequently a reduction in child labour and child marriage. This is enhanced by quarterly parent-teacher meetings where families are encouraged to give input to the program.
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