Mobile school brings career hopes to deprived Bangladeshi children

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Students taking classes in a mobile school bus at Mirpur, Dhaka. (AN photo)
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Students taking classes in a mobile school bus at Mirpur, Dhaka. (AN photo)
Updated 23 January 2019

Mobile school brings career hopes to deprived Bangladeshi children

  • Bus is turned into classroom for 50 students
  • First youngsters set to graduate this year

DHAKA: A bus converted into a mobile classroom is proving just the ticket for underprivileged children in the Bangladeshi capital.
Youngsters living in some of Dhaka’s most deprived areas are being given the chance of an education, thanks to the innovative learning scheme. 
Funded by one of the country’s largest business conglomerates, Akij Group, the mobile school has brought career hopes to the doors of scores of poverty-stricken children in the city.
So successful has been the program, that organizers are hoping to bring three more classroom buses into service.
The bus currently being operated, has been turned into a classroom to seat around 50 students and has its own whiteboard and other learning aids. Lessons start every morning at 9 a.m. and continue until 1 p.m., 6 days a week. 
In 2010, Akij Group launched the Akij Foundation with the aim of improving educational opportunities for Bangladesh’s poorest people. It came up with the idea of operating a mobile school in 2014. 
“Our idea was to provide quality education to those people who don’t have access to the education system,” foundation chairman, professor Jamalunnessa, told Arab News. 
He said the foundation had searched in vain to find a suitable location in Dhaka for a primary school before it hit on the idea of converting a bus to take education to the doorsteps of the children.
The bus is now a government-registered school and lessons follow the local education authority’s standard curriculum. 
“In addition, we teach mathematics and English at the elementary level in class 1 and 2,” said senior teacher, Shah Alam.
“Our focus is to make the learning process fun for the children. We teach them painting and do other extracurricular activities, and we also offer light snacks during class breaks which help to make the children more attentive in class,” Alam added. 
According to the latest figures, the dropout rate among students in Bangladeshi primary schools is 18.8 percent. In comparison, the mobile school has not lost a single student during its time on the road.
Akhi Alamgir, a fifth-grader at the mobile school, said: “I like the methods of teaching here. The teachers are very dedicated and help all of us.” She intends to continue her studies at a city high school run by the foundation, and said she hopes to become a doctor. 
Alamgir’s mother Sufia Begum, said: “I want my daughter to continue being taught by the foundation’s teachers. They are very good for her well-being.”
There are currently around 100 students attending the mobile school, which is being operated in the Mirpur and Uttara areas of Dhaka. 
Fourth-grader, Salma After, travels 2 km every day with her younger sisters Asma and Asia to join classes on the bus.
“After completing my education, I want to be a police officer. Coming to school here has helped me to feel much more confident about making a success of my life,” said After. 
The foundation hopes its mobile-school students will move on to study in one of its high schools or colleges in the capital after completing their fifth grade. 
“We will continue to support their education for as long as they want,” said Jamalunnessa. “We plan to expand the mobile school into other parts of the city with three more buses. Any help with this would be great.”


Taliban talks resume amid hopes of deal

Updated 22 August 2019

Taliban talks resume amid hopes of deal

  • The disclosure came in a context of ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan after NATO said two US military personnel were killed Wednesday
  • Washington is hoping to strike an agreement with the Taliban by September 1 — ahead of Afghan polls due the same month

DOHA: The US and the Taliban met in Doha on Thursday, an American source close to the talks said, for potentially decisive dialogue to allow Washington to drawdown militarily in Afghanistan.
The source said the talks started around 1300 GMT — the ninth time the two foes have met face-to-face.
The disclosure came in a context of ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan after NATO said two US military personnel were killed Wednesday, blasts rocked Jalalabad Monday, and the death toll from a weekend wedding bombing reached 80.
Washington’s top commander in Afghanistan General Scott Miller was at the talks venue, according to an AFP correspondent.
The US, which invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban in 2001, wants to withdraw thousands of troops but only in return for the insurgent group renouncing Al-Qaeda and curbing attacks.
Washington is hoping to strike an agreement with the Taliban by September 1 — ahead of Afghan polls due the same month, and US presidential polls due in 2020.
Taliban lead negotiator Abbas Stanikzai told AFP Thursday that overall talks had been “going well.”
The talks are expected to focus on establishing a timeline for the US withdrawal of its more than 13,000 troops in Afghanistan.
“We’ve been there for 18 years, it’s ridiculous,” US President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday.
“We are negotiating with the government and we are negotiating with the Taliban,” he said.
“We have good talks going and we will see what happens.”
But the thorny issues of power-sharing with the Taliban, the role of regional powers including Pakistan and India, and the fate of Afghanistan’s incumbent administration remain unresolved.
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad sought to bolster optimism for a peace agreement last week when he said in a tweet that he hoped this is the final year that the country is at war.