This morning we took some Rickshaws to go to the Rakhaing school at the Buddhist Temple Road here in Cox’s Bazar. We visited a pre-primary school class of Shishur Khamatayan, a mother tongue based multi-lingual education project.
Bangladesh is home to various ethnic minority groups like for example the Rakhaing. The Rakhaing are closely related to the people of Myanmar. Contrary to most Bangladeshis who are Muslim, the Rakhaing are Buddhists and speak a completely different language. You can imagine that for Rakhaing children it is not easy to go to school where all classes are taught in Bangla (of which they don’t understand a single word and where the activities do not relate to their culture or communities). Therefore over 55.5% of ethnic children in Bangladesh between the age of six and ten do not go to school and if they do, drop out before completing primary school.
This school is set up by Save the Children, together with the Rakhaing Development Foundation. It prepares the smallest children for primary school, teaching them in Rakhaing. Although young children learn quite fast, it is important that they first develop their mother tongue language skills before learning a second language. It creates better thinking and learning skills and gives the children a strong foundation for future education.
In the second year of pre-primary school children are gradually introduced to the Bangla language and will have classes in both Rakhaing and Bangla until grade 3. The great thing is that children who have completed this multi-lingual education program are among the best students of their class in the regular national schools which they will attend from grade 4.
The first thing I notice when we enter the classroom is that it feels like a warm bath. And I don’t mean that I put on too many clothes today, the atmosphere here is just very friendly, informal and welcoming. All around the classroom you see drawings and other things that the children made. There is a lot of interaction between the teacher and children, and they don’t hesitate for a second when she asks them what a horse does.
Looking around this classroom, where the kids are having so much fun, I wish that all children of Ethnic minority groups in Bangladesh would have the opportunity to go to a school like this. Another good reason to sell as many Soft Toys as we can during the Soft Toys for Education Campaign. And when I buy mine, I will definitely think about this nice little school at the Buddhist Temple Road.