‘I never thought I would be going to school, enjoying school life and friends around me’, Touhida Akter (15), a student from the Catch up Education Center, supported by Learning for Life (LfL) UK.
Tauhida Akter’s Achievements
Three years ago Tauhida worked in the fish drying plants and supported her parents financially. Her father owns a small grocery shop which is insufficient to support the family. Tauhida’s parents migrated to Cox’s Bazar from Mohaskhali Island for a better life. Tauhida has two sisters and four brothers. Two brothers aged 18 and 20, work as fishermen, while the younger ones help their father at the shop. Her sisters stay at home to help their mother with the household chores.
Through Catch up Education Center, Tauhida’s parents were motivated to send her to school. Recently, Tauhida passed the primary school and scored an A+. She received a general scholarship awarded by the Government Primary Education Board. This is a prestigious scholarship awarded to the most talented students. The staff at Catch up Education Center then further pushed Tauhida’s family to let her continue with her studies. She then went on to clear the entrance test at the Government Girl’s High-School.
Being content and extremely happy with her achievements, Tauhida aspires to be a doctor. Her main aim is to serve the people and help her parents. She also encourages other girls to continue with their education. Tauhida is also fighting towards the elimination of child labour in the fish drying plants.
"I love my life now; it’s a free life. I’ll never leave education. In future I’ll have a good job."
Shawon Grabs His Chance for Education with Both Hands
Shawon went to school with his friends when he was young, but his father is a drug addict and spent the family's earnings on drugs, forcing Shawon to leave school and go to work in the shoe factories to support his family. His father had little interest in what was best for Shawon and had no appreciation of the damage he was doing to Shawon’s future by depriving him of an education.
The project staff met Shawon during the conduction of the baseline survey in 2011, and Shawon described the unbearable experience he endured working in the factory and expressed a strong desire to go back to school. A project release team then went to talk to Shawon’s father but he would not agree to release his son from labour.
Staff then invited the parents to the awareness-raising activities which had been arranged for Shawon’s village including drama and folk songs spreading the message of child rights and highlighting the dangers of child labour. These popular performances changed the attitudes and mindset of the village people who saw them, and after they had taken place, project staff again contacted Shawon’s father to ask that he release his son. This time he agreed and now Shawon happily attends one of our catch-up education centres.
He says ‘‘I love my life now; it’s a free life. I’ll never leave education. In future I’ll have a good job’’
His mother is also happy her son can go to school and pleased with the improvements she has seen in him. She says ‘‘Now Shawon speaks better than before and behaves well with others; he doesn’t quarrel with other children like before. He sits down with his books after returning from school and we hope that he will be educated and become a dignified person. We will never send him to work at the shoe factories.’’
"This really motivated me to help the other single mothers of my district who struggle without the support of their husbands."
Nirmala Paudel leads the way for Women's Empowerment
“My name is Nirmala Paudel. I have one son and three daughters and I am a single woman. I used to be illiterate too. One day, project staff came to my home and talked to me about women's rights, social security allowances and other health issues. They advised me to apply for a single woman's allowance to help support my children and with the project team’s help, I was granted the allowance. This really motivated me to help the other single mothers of my district who struggle without the support of husbands.
I undertook a survey of Hatiya and found 93 single women in need of support. I have discussed the findings of the survey in a meeting "Single women and Society, Hatiya" which took place in June 2010. Now I am advocating for all of the single women here, that they too should receive support from the government.
I have also participated in a local district council meeting and have shared my findings with the secretary for the Single Women Program and am proud that they have now agreed to set aside funds for supporting local single women. We have received Rs. 30,000.00 for an income generating program and now 22 single women have received three days of candle making training.
These women are now motivated and equipped with the skills they need to set up small businesses and support themselves and their families. My capacity to deal with local government mechanism is increased and now the community people respect me, even though I am a single woman. Now, I am happy.”
" Mumin now wants to become a doctor so that he can serve the people of his community."
Isquah Uddin Mumin’s New Life
Isquah Uddin Mumin lives with his family near Cox’s Bazar. When he was 7 his parents sent him to a Madrasa school, but six months later he stopped going because his teacher would beat him and bully him. His parents decided to admit him to another school but couldn’t because it was the middle of the school year and they weren’t taking any admissions. At the beginning of the next school year Mumin was enrolled into a school but his parents struggled with the monthly school fees so he was forced to leave school and go to work as a labourer in the fish drying plants.
Mumin worked long days for very little money and was very unhappy because he wanted to go to school and the owner of the fish drying plant would beat him and would not always pay him the wage he had earned. Mumin also developed a painful skin disease as a result of working with pesticides. He would beg his mother to send him to school, but his mother replied that education is not for poor people like them.
Days passed, then months, but Mumin continued struggling to earn money for his family, while his friends all went to school. Following a baseline survey conducted by the project team, they came to know about Mumin and his situation. The community facilitator went to talk with Mumin and his parents, and although his parents did want him to have an education, they said they simply could not afford it. When they learned that uniform, books and pens would be provided, and that there was no admission or monthly fee, his parents committed to sending their son to school.
Project staff then went to talk to the plant owner about child rights and the illegality of child labour. After hearing this the owner agreed to release Mumin from his plant.
Now Mumin goes to school every day and plays with his classmates. His mother is pleased with the change in him saying “Now our Mumin uses Bangla language and he is aware about cleanliness and we have also have become aware about hygiene issues by learning from him”. Mumin now wants to be a doctor so that he can serve the people of his community.
"Hasana loves being at school, she works hard and is known for her kindness and willingness to help out the other children."
Hasana's Escape From Labour
Hasana was only 5 years old when her father died, leaving her mother responsible for looking after 6 children. Her family is very poor and her mother had no choice but to send Hasana to work in the shoe factories.
She was unhappy working long and hard hours in the shoe factory and would dream of going to school, but her mother couldn’t afford to provide for her family, let alone send Hasana to school.
Two of her friends were released from labour and started to attend our catch-up education centres, and Hasana would go along with them to the school whenever she could. The project staff became aware of Hasana and how desperately she wanted to attend school and tried to convince her mother to release her from labour.
It took a very long time to succeed, but now Hasana is back in school and her mother has received vocational training to help her to increase her income.
Hasana loves being at school - she works hard and is known for her kindness and willingness to help out the other children.