Street school: Meet the children
By Sabya van Elswijk,
After leaving the railroad tracks, we walk back to Raj, who is trying to turn the car in the heavy traffic. Emran tells him the way, and we drive through the stream of Rickshaws, walking people, street sellers, and cars to another street. There, Emran points to something colourful in the middle of the street, between the traffic. I look closer and see that they are children sitting on mats on the street, while the traffic passes by alongside. Three adults are walking and standing around them, and one is sitting in between them, bend over schoolbooks. We walk over, and Nasir Udden Rubel is coming to us to welcome us to their school, Prothom Surjo. He is the initiator of this project, started to offer complementary education to the public school in the morning, and give these children who live on the street a better education.
The children are already looking at us, and they run forward in a group to meet us. The teachers are telling them to watch the traffic while they cross: one of the biggest hazards for the children. Four girls come to me and ask me: “Hello, what is your name?” “My name is Sabya, and yours?” “My name is Kameela.” And a big smile. Then the next and the next and the next come to say hello, and afterwards Emran says there are 85 children in total. Martijn asks some children if they want to be on a photo. Stopping the traffic in the street he portrays them. Emran asks them about their life, name and age. Slowly the big group of children start s to become individuals who have their own name, face and story.
Some small children are sleeping on the mats, others are writing in their books, and some are playing with stones on the street. A girl named Shrini beckons me to come, and helped by her teacher, who speaks English, she explains the stone game to me. She is very fast throwing and picking up stones from the street. And they make me try, clapping loud when I succeed, and helping when I fail. After receiving Iftar from us, the snacks they eat at night when it is Ramadan, they all walk off to ‘home’, to come back the next day again.
Talking to Nasir Udden Rubel he tells us more about what they do here. He started this school 3 years ago, after he learned about the situation street children live in. They go to the government public school in the morning, but there they do not learn so much in this little time. So he has decided to start this school from 15-19 everyday, and by lack of space, on the road. The government officially recognizes them, so they can be there. Their only means of existing are donations of mainly tourists, and of course the time the volunteers put into the school. With the donations they buy schoolbooks, pens and paper, food for the children and pay a little fee for the two full time teachers.
On the question what we could contribute to their project and the children, his colleague starts smiling and says “To see you here, so concerned and busy with the children is already so much. Thank you.” It makes me realize that apart from food and a place to sleep, all people grow by human attention and contact. We discuss the possibility of us helping by spreading the word about their project, giving everybody in the world opportunity to donate money on their account. Thinking of the enormous value our Western money has here: for 20 euro you can buy a meal for all 85 children.
To support them you can send them any amount of money to buy the books, pens, and food for the children. You can transfer it to their bank account:
Brac bank limited
Branch: elephant road
Account number: 1535202539953001
Name: Prothom Surjo foundation
Also if you are thinking of volunteers work, or visiting Bangladesh, they are always happy with help and support for their children.
And more information is available on their Facebook page, here a part of their mission:
“Students come from vulnerable walks of life. Most of them live in the street or slums. Many of them have single parent and their parent is working people who don’t have time to look after their kid/s. The pre-school though opens in the afternoon but it helps as an alternative of a day care center. The school provides free stationeries like school bag, dress, books, pencil etc to all students. They also get healthy Tiffin who attends the school. ”