This week, together with Save the Children’s local partner, Zabarang Kalyan Samity, we visited the Community Learning Circle in Khagrachari, where Grade 1 and Grade 2 children get additional training in Bangla, the national language of Bangladesh. They speak indigenous languages and therefore have to learn Bangla so that they can follow the lessons in the formal schools.
My colleague Julia and Anja from Save the Children, who is hosting our visit in Bangladesh, wrote this together about our journey to another project:
We have visited a preschool and a first grade in a school for ethnic minority children in rural Bangladesh.
The villages in this region are so remote that we traveled for hours over rough roads, wading through a river bed (good thing that is still dry season, because in a few weeks, the now knee-deep water will only be passable by banana boat).
We who are accustomed to living in places where everything is easily reached by bus, train, taxi or car, are quite excited. How do people live in such remote villages? How will we be received? How do you behave “correctly” without a shred of idea of their culture, knowing their manners, etc.
But as soon as we reached the school, all the worries are wiped away – and we are just thrilled by the warmth, authenticity and joy with which we are welcomed. The women of the village hand us freshly picked bouquets and invite us into a small bamboo hut in the middle of the village – the school. There, the children learn the alphabet of their own minority language with pictures (“A” for alligator, “B” for bear, etc.).
We also try to learn a children’s rhyme in “Chakma”. Our tongues fail miserably, but we provide amusement in the whole village. The ice is now broken and the parents tell us how important the school is for the village community. A mother gets up and talks movingly about how much the chance of education for her child means to her. The children can only escape the vicious circle of poverty, no education, when they have the opportunity to attend school.
The other mothers are also happy when they hear their children in school, how they learn and sing. They had no opportunity to go to school themselves. That makes it all the more important to provide this education in this remote region of Bangladesh.
For us, school is taken for granted. But during our visits we were reminded over and over how much it can mean being able to learn. The thirst for knowledge and enthusiasm of the children is obvious. They get up in the morning happy to go to school. If we are honest, with us it was not always so.
We made this video so you can see the beautiful countryside. Unfortunately, the wind was very bad so you can’t hear what Anja and Marija are saying – but I’ve written below the video what they said.
Hey, I am Anja from Save the children and we just drove about an hour from Kagrachari to Babuchara. We will visit a multi-lingual pre school which is located behind the hill on the other side of the river. Here the people are talking Chakma and kids have to learn read and write Chakma first before they can learn Bangla, the official school language in Bangladesh. Marija, do you want to add something?
No, I am just excited what we will see.
OK, now we have to go and get wet!