Sonia Akhter, a Class III student at Amader Pathshala, was colouring a drawing of rural vista in the cultural programme of the school on one Saturday.
The daughter of a garment worker, Sonia often helps her mother in the household chores but she is regular in attending her classes from Uttar Kalshi in the Dhaka city’s Mirpur area.
‘I like to come to school and I enjoy my classes,’ she said.
Like Sonia, Mustak, a Class I student, also enjoys his classes and cultural activities at the school.
His shabby clothes, however, expose his poverty. He lives at a slum near the Mirpur Ceramic factory. Mustak’s father is a blind man, and his mother has no permanent work to earn money for her family.
To make education accessible to the destitute children like Sonia and Mustak, Amader Pathshala started its journey in January 2008 with the slogan ‘quality education for underprivileged children in a humanistic way’.
Located at House 40, Lane 25, Block D of Pallabi at Mirpur, the school has now 160 students.
‘We opened the school to make education accessible to the children who cannot afford to have education at the government and non-government educational institutions because of economic or other reasons,’ said Anu Muhammad, a trustee of the school.
Anu, also a professor of economics at Jahangirnagar University, said, ‘The school always tries to make education interesting to the students when the mainstream educational institutions in the country lack this seriously.’
Amader Pathshala aspires to be a replicable model of institution offering quality education for the poor children.
‘But, the school faces serious shortage of fund and efficient teaching staff,’ Anu said, adding, ‘The hurdles can be overcome if people perform their responsibility to society.’
The school enrols students in Class I to Class VII. The classes are held in two shifts in three rooms of the rented house. The school, which is run with individual financing, charges Tk 10 from each student as monthly fee.
It follows the syllabus being exercised at the public schools but in a different teaching method.
‘We have adopted a teaching method ‘survey-question-read-recite-review’ to develop inquisitive mind of students, and to facilitate active participation of the students to understand the texts,’ said Abul Hasan Rubel, head-teacher of Amader Pathshala.
‘Where in most cases students are inert and submissive to the teachers, our students are lively and active,’ he said.
The students also get basic lessons in art and other cultural activities at the school. ‘Here the teachers do not burden the students with home work and the lessons have been prepared with relevance to their own life,’ he said.
The school provides the students with snacks at the tiffin period with a view to providing them with nutrition.
The school recently has launched computer training programmes for the Class VI and VII students, aiming to make the students capable of earning money to support their families and as well as continue their studies.
‘All our programmes require money to be implemented, and we are facing fund crisis,’ said Rubel. ‘The school does not take funds from the NGOs and the donor agencies as they often try to exercise their influence on the institution which takes funds from them,’ he said.
‘We solely depend on individual financing. If we can manage more individual financing consistently, we will be able to push our educational programmes ahead,’ he added.