This week a group from IKEA Netherlands and IKEA France, is going on an IWitness trip to Bangladesh. Rakibul Hassan from Save the Children Bangladesh describes the current situation and explains about the programmes funded through the Soft Toys for Education campaign.
There are 57 million children in Bangladesh, 7 million of whom have some form of disability. Only 20% of children with disabilities have access to education, and 50% become victims of sexual abuse and other forms of violence. Around 77% of families with a disabled child partially depend on the child’s income, although there are few opportunities for safe employment. The families employ them in tea stalls, road-side food shops or in small businesses where they have to do physical labour. Many families send these children out to beg.
Save the Children has been working to care for, protect and empower this extremely vulnerable group of children for decades now. Our Protection for Empowerment Project, with support from the IKEA Foundation, is helping 4,400 children with disabilities in three districts of Bangladesh get access to local services, care and protection, and inclusive education. The project is helping protect them from abuse, neglect, violence, and discrimination at home, at school, in the workplace and in the community.
There are also 2.5 million indigenous people belonging to ethnic tribes in Bangladesh. Many of them live in the country’s Chittagong Hill Tracts region. Disadvantaged ethnic children’s suffering is compounded by the fact that there is little scope of education in their mother tongues. Their teachers are also from the same tribes, but there didn’t used to be a government-set curriculum for ethnic children’s education. Most importantly, there were no textbooks available in their languages. All children used to get books in the Bengali language, which neither ethnic children not their teachers understood.
Since the IKEA Foundation started supporting Save the Children’s Multilingual Education project in 2008, Save the Children has established 160 preschools and 17 non-formal primary schools in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Save the Children has trained teachers, the curriculum has been developed and a wide range of learning materials has been made available in five ethnic languages. To date, 6,785 ethnic children have benefitted from these initiatives.
“I want to be a teacher when I grow up,” says Jesmin, an 8-year-old girl from the Chakma community in Khagrachari district.
“I love to study. I want to keep on studying,” declares 6-year-old Ahlu, who belongs to the Marma ethnic group.
Fifteen-year-old Payel, who has cerebral palsy that impairs her movement, maintains top grades in school and wants to be a minister or painter. Thanks to the IKEA Foundation’s support for Save the Children’s work in Bangladesh, these aspirations are closer to becoming reality.