Alor Biddaniketon, established in this June, aims to contribute the socio-economic and learning skill-based supports for underprivileged and special needs children. The school is working to reduce the gap in the education in these specific social groups, writes Shahabuddin Panna
THE school named Alor Biddaniketon was established in the first week of this year’s June by the initiative of Joseph Mahtab, founder of EarthCare Foundation, in Amtali upazila of Barguna, a coastal district of Bangladesh to spread the light of education among the students in the remote area.
Since the initiative was taken, a few college students like Imran, Mukta and Puja have joined as volunteer teachers. The school set up in an abandoned barracks at the Payra river in Barguna’s Amtali upazila, is working with the children who are deprived of education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Children from poor families with disabilities are being deprived of mainstream competitive education. They are being deprived of quality education all over the country. Again, many people get the opportunity to study in the mainstream educational institution, but they are lagging behind in various competitive fields. As a result, children with special needs are considered as a burden of the society. Parents do not want their children to talk about these things for fear of ignorance and public shame. Considering these, the journey of Alor Biddanicaton has started.
The school started delivering general education, moral education, physical, mental health awareness programme. Today, Alor Biddaniketon is a voluntary educational institution, non-profit, non-government. The organisation aims to contribute the socio-economic and learning skill-based supports for underprivileged children including special needs children.
Alor Biddaniketon is working to reduce the gap in the education of underprivileged children and special needs children. This school has been visited by eminent personalities of different levels including upazila social welfare officers and other government officers.
Joseph Mahtab said, ‘Our inherent belief is that if we help the child to get a quality education, that child will help others to spread knowledge and achieve good to the society. We believe that the work we have started is a great step.’ Joseph added more words, ‘Many children are born in poor families, so they are deprived of various opportunities. Physically and mentally disabled children from families in the region are also deprived of educational opportunities. The parents of these children are poor and their children are also victims in this cycle of poverty. Due to poverty, children are deprived of opportunities for a better future and development of intellectual creativity. These children are very curious and full of talent. We are committed to ensuring the basic right to education of all these children.’
For the benefit of the local people, the children are studying at home, but sometimes the teachers of this special school teach under the open sky on the banks of the river. All through the education and awareness program is being carried out with a small number of underprivileged children and special needs children following the government health guidelines. Day by day the number of students is gradually increasing. We started with 15 children, but now we have more than 30 children.
The teachers take two-hour classes on every Friday and Saturday afternoon. They take classes on general knowledge, poetry, song, present speeches and various social awareness topics including textbooks as well as general knowledge and more educative parts. Parents have unlimited concerns about children with special needs who are deprived of the opportunity to study in mainstream educational institutions. Many parents send their children to this special type of school after the members of Alor Biddaniketon found out about the initiative to find and teach the students with special needs. Awareness discussions are held with the parents of the students of this school one day in every month on the progress of children’s education and moral education as well as about the COVID-19 situation.
Jasmine Akhter, mother of Omar Isalm, a disabled child with special needs, was the first to push her son to a government primary school at the beginning of this year. Just before the pandemic began, Omor left the school. Omar started behaving more restless, stubborn and aggressive, gets unreasonable intimidation, excessive restlessness, inattention, repeats the same behaviour, hurting others, hurting himself and screaming and fighting.
Due to these reasons, other children and teachers of the government school have lost the interest. Now Omar does not go to the government school. Omar’s parents were worried about him after he dropped out of the school. Jasmine said that she found Alor Biddaniketon at that time. Omar’s mother is satisfied with the activities and teaching of Alor Biddaniketon and she sees the dreams of her son’s future. She added that the school teachers are very good and they are teaching the children well. The people of the area are getting to know and become aware of many things in the activities of this school. The members of the school want this school to continue.
Through the various activities of the school, the daily behaviour and social change of the children and their families had taken place. We encourage school children to develop leadership and help families with household chores. We have distributed egg-laying ducks among the families of 22 school children for free of cost, which helps them to meet the nutritional needs of the children and for the socio-economic development of the families. We believe that such activities lead to social-development.
The founder of Alor Biddaniketan, Joseph Mahtab said, ‘Alor Biddaniketan started from personal responsibility, but now it is not in the individual level. At the beginning of this institution, I was helping at least a little bit by saving my own money, but gradually many people, including friends, well-wishers are extending their helping hands to the underprivileged children.
We also need to look at children with special needs. May they grow normally. That is why everyone needs to work for children with special needs. College students teach all these children. We increased community people’s involvement and the participation of local people in our management for decision making and also in the problem-solving processes. They have free space to share their thought and we increase social networking and interacting process. Finally, we support to achieving sustainable development goals. The organisation is being run with the cooperation of all.’
Shahabuddin Panna is an advisor of Alor Biddaniketon.