The organisation aims to ensure that no child is at risk of their education coming to an end
Tired and hungry after a fishing trip with his father, Badal is lying alone on the sand by the seashore when a mermaid brings him some food to eat…
So goes the story in a colourfully illustrated fantasy book titled "Badal and the Mermaid", written by Dr Abu Hena Mostafa Kamal and published by 'Room to Read', a non-profit global organisation working in 30,000 low-income communities across 16 countries.
The organisation aims to ensure that no child is at risk of their education coming to an end.
Many world problems can be addressed through one solution: education. Yet, over 750 million people are illiterate and two-thirds are women and girls. That's why Room to Read's innovative model focuses on deep, systemic transformation within schools in low-income countries during the two most critical periods in a child's schooling: early primary school for literacy acquisition and secondary school for girls' education.
Room to Read Bangladesh broadly focuses on these two programmes. The Literacy Program (LP) aims at developing the habit and skills of reading in the early grades, while their Girls' Education Program (GEP) supports girls to complete secondary education with the skills necessary to negotiate key life decisions.
They started working in Bangladesh in 2009. For the literacy program the organisation is closely working with the government bodies like the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education (MoPME), National Academy for Primary Education (NAPE), and National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB).
They also collaborate with local governments, schools, communities, and families to ensure that the latter understand the importance of literacy and how they can play a role in enabling students to achieve their full potential.
"We have so far published 122 storybooks. Out of them, we have made 40 videos based on selective books. Several films and TV stars have read out/performed in the videos for the children," informed Md. Saidus Saklean, Senior Program Manager, Room to Read Bangladesh. "The videos were made based on the Interactive Voice Response System. We want the students to read with pleasure. If they continue their reading habit, their reading skills will improve."
The celebrities have made interesting audio/visual lessons on rhyme-song, rhyme-recitation, read-aloud storybook, and puzzle, incorporating literacy, numeracy, and creativity."
Rakhi Sarkar, Country Director, Room to Read Bangladesh said, "In Girls' Education Programme we work on secondary education for girls between Grade VI to Grade XII. The main objective was to build the capacity of the girls so that they are able to live a life of dignity and they are able to take the decisions of their own life. What we provide to them is life skills education."
Room to Read Bangladesh currently works in Dhaka, Natore, Sirajganj, and Cox's Bazar, benefitting over 4,000 girls. "We have been able to keep them engaged even in the crisis period of Covid-19 as the government is having online classes for children on Sangsad Television."
Room to Read Bangladesh staff on the ground are ensuring these girls attend the classes. They are engaging the girls through different activities and creative ideas. They give them assignments, so they are engaged, rather than getting distracted. The staff are mentoring them and providing coaching support.
"We are also telecasting life skills education sessions on Sangsad Television on Saturday afternoon every week. That is supporting girls across the country to have educational sessions," added Rakhi Sarkar, who also mentioned that they are training the teachers through the online platform 'zoom'.
"The government, in this regard, is extremely supportive, cooperative and has encouraged the teachers to join the zoom session. So, we are delivering teachers' capacity development initiative on zoom. We have had a very good response from the teachers. We hope the learning gap that has been created during these pandemic situations will be lessened through the initiative."
Across all the districts under their programme, Social Mobilisers conduct virtual mentoring sessions with participants in the Girls' Education Program and check in with the girls' families. These video chats and phone calls provide ongoing emotional support, while also monitoring risks that may lead a girl to drop out of school during this time.
Md. Saidus Saklean said, "Many film and TV stars like Reaz, Shahiduzzaman Selim, Tropa Majumdar, Sharmin Lucky, and others lent their voices to the 40 AVs that we have made so far. The AVs regularly go on air on Ntv under the programme 'Boi Pori Jibon Gori' every Friday Morning,"
Room to Read Bangladesh observed that girl children aged between 11 and 17 years, in grades between VI and XII, from low-income families in Bangladesh had always been at the constant risk of dropout, child marriage, and sexual harassment, while the Covid-19 situation heightened the risks.
Against this backdrop, the organisation has taken several initiatives to reach out to girls living in remote areas of the country. Between April and September this year, it extended its support to ensure adolescent girls' education, besides enhancing their life skills. The programme also included efforts to dissuade the families from considering discontinuing their children's education.
During the period Room to Read Bangladesh held 46,188 mentoring sessions via audio/video calls to reach girls from the poverty-prone communities in Dhaka, Cox's Bazar, Natore, and Sirajganj.
Total of 91,531 phone calls or SMS were made to keep in touch with the girls, inquire about their wellbeing, inform them about Covid-19 safety measures, and encourage them to watch learning programmes on TV.
Room to Read Bangladesh handpicked 40 life skill topics, including learning to be assertive, how to stay healthy, being empathetic to family, and time management to develop 20 videos which have been made part of the weekly class routine of 'Amar Ghoray Amar School', which air on Sangsad TV.
By the end of 2020, the organisation will have invested in the future of at least 15 million children by developing literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and by supporting girls to complete secondary school with strong life skills.