From roadblock to ACCESS: Jessore’s Journey
Your generosity through the ACCESS Program ensures that smiles will emerge on the faces of the nameless and forgotten children of the slums of Jessore. With your help every student can have ACCESS to a place in a classroom with dedicated teachers, books, effective learning tools and balanced nutrition. No child should ever be turned away...
Bangladeshi children living in modern cities are just as likely to be poor, orphaned and vulnerable to starvation, disease, criminal influences and death as those born in rural areas without access to schools, hospitals, playgrounds and other modern amenities of life. More than 4 million people live in the squalor around Dhaka and other major cities. The slums and shantytowns around the city of Jessore are a dramatic example.
Every year a growing, nameless, faceless mass of the rural poor are either pushed or pulled towards the cities. Some are attracted by the prospect of earning a better living than subsistence farming. Others are forced to migrate because they lost their homes to flooding, river erosion, cyclones or other natural disasters. Once they arrive in Jessore the dispossessed become desperate, the hopeful are greeted by a wave of despair and, for everyone, a new battle for survival begins.
They live in sprawling slum settlements. They squat on government properties, industrial or railway lands where they are preyed upon by “musclemen” who use violence and intimidation to exact fees for the use of the land, latrines and water. The homes are typically packed close together—one or two rooms with earthen floors, wooden or bamboo walls and leaf roofs. In the monsoon season the rains inundate these feeble dwellings, making l living conditions even more deplorable. Most households use unsealed or open latrines (each one is shared by five families) that frequently overflow. Drains for floodwaters and sewage are wholly inadequate and garbage disposal in Jessore is a citywide fiasco.
Children from these neighbourhoods, particularly boys 10 to 14 years old, are overrepresented in the workforce. They work as rickshaw pullers, day labourers, hawkers and peddlars earning barely enough to afford one meal per day. With survival stakes so high, education is not considered a priority. Governments conveniently overlook these slum dwellers, refusing to recognize their desperate condition. Slum kids are left unattended during the day because their parents typically work as day- labourers and daycare facilities are neither affordable nor available. Because of the lack of supervision many children are harmed or become involved in drug trading gangs. (In the movies slum dogs become millionaires, but reality creates much harsher outcomes.)
A Ray of Hope
In 2012, International Needs Bangladesh created the Jessore Free School on Jessore Road in Karbala. The school, operated by teachers, caregivers and a supervisor, has been providing day care services to 47 preschoolers but now also holds classes from Kindergarten through Grade 4. Every day from 8:00 am till 1:00 pm students attend school and receive light meals and free access to educational materials—text books, stationery, school uniforms—and medical attention if necessary. The academic curriculum includes Mathematics, English, General Knowledge Arts and Crafts and Music. Children are also taught a variety of social skills and graces—how to treat their parents with respect, how to help people in need, and how to make wise decisions between right and wrong choices. Today, many parents who had given up hope of giving their children an education are sending them to Jessore Free School.
, attends the Jessore Free School Nursery. His father pulls a rickshaw in Jessore District. They live beside the railway line in a small house made of plastic and tin called a baste. Mithun’s father is now very happy that his child has a chance at education and a better life through Jessore Free School.
, an orphan, is in Grade One. Mamoon’s grandfather is a day labourer who lives in a “baste” made of discarded materials. He is happy that through education at Jessore Free School his grandson now has an opportunity to escape the misfortune that robbed him of his parents.
, is in Grade One. His father is a day-labourer. They live beside the railway line and Dipanker walks to Jessore Free School every day through a high-risk area where rail-related casualties are common. The family depends on the father’s uncertain daily income for food. They fast when he has no earnings. Dipankar’s father is happy that his son has a brighter future because of Jessore Free School.
How You Can Help
Your one-time gift or monthly contribution to Jessore Free School ensures that:
The children currently enrolled at the school will continue to have ACCESS to education and the life skills they need to become competent, responsible citizens.
More children from the slums of Jessore will receive an opportunity to escape the many dangers of street life.
That the children receive uniforms, school supplies and a nutritious meal each day at school.
Provide desks and chairs.
Professional Development for teaching staff.