By: Aparna Ray
In the capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka, when a group of children leave their homes every morning to go to school, another group of children come out onto the streets, to work for a livelihood. The streets to them represent an opportunity to earn a living. Some of these children collect garbage, others sell various items – tea and cigarettes included among them.
- The logo of Swapnorath, created by Dwipangsu Paul, of Kolkata
For these children, school is something unattainable – something that they can only dream about, because where they come from, there is a huge gap between their dreams and the harsh reality of their day to day lives. However, a group of youth have taken it upon themselves to fulfill the dreams of at least some of these children. They have started a school for the disadvantaged children from the slums. The school is aptly named “Shawpno Rath” (Chariot of Dreams).
This is how their journey began:
While on her way to office, a young women regularly noticed some children searching for something in the garbage heap. The young woman felt that perhaps they were searching for a dream.
Wanting to do something for these children, she discussed with her friends and colleagues as to what they could do. At first, it was decided that once a week, they would provide these children with a meal and then take them for a fun outing somewhere nearby.
Not in any office but the discussions about this venture started in a park – the Chandrima Udyan (park):
And for this discussion we selected the Chandrima Udyan, since this was the workplace for many of these children. All of them were engaged in selling flowers, chocolates, peanuts, tea, cigarettes etc., to young couples and other members of the public who visited the park. We got a good response to our initiative. Day by day the number of children kept increasing. Every Saturday, books were brought to read stories to them. The children were excited and used to flip through the books, unable to read. To be able to read they would need education and for education they would need schooling but for these children, school was a journey down a path different from their own. So, they had to content themselves with merely flipping through the pages, touching the pictures and words. Seeing the enthusiasm among these kids for the written word, the youth group decided to start a school for these children. A name was decided for the school – Shawpno Rath (Chariot of Dreams)
A school under a tree
In order to start a formal school, one needs many things – a school building, classrooms, books, notebooks, teachers, blackboards, dusters and students. However, for this school, all these conditions could not be fulfilled. Nevertheless, every Saturday, classes were held under a tree in the park. Children left their work and came to attend the classes, though it meant loss of earnings for them. They enjoyed these classes thoroughly. Gradually, the number of students began to increase. And soon, there emerged the need to find a classroom.
The school gets a new address
The school was moved out of Chandrima Udyan (park) and housed in 10 Mirpur Road, where a room was taken on rent for running the school. Here, the school was open five days a week and students started attending classes regularly. The school started with 30 students and 2 teachers. As more children from disadvantaged families, from nearby slums joined the classes, the number of students continued to increase.
- Students of Shawpno Rath celebrating New Years Day. Image taken from the groups Facebook Page. Used with permission.
Shawpno Rath – an adult education center too
Seeing their children attending school, some of the parents too began to wish that they could avail the opportunity for getting some formal education. So now Shawpno Rath has extended its work to include adult education as well. At present, the school has 20 adult students – those who did not get the opportunity in their childhood to go to school.
- This image represents the vision of Shawpno Rath as an enabler, a helping hand. The photograph is by Raymond Habibur. Taken from the groups Facebook Page. Used with permission.
The Shawpno Rath vision
On their Facebook Page, Shawpno Rath has said about it’s vision and objective:
“Shawpno Rath” is a non-profit organization was founded in 2010 with a view to improve the educational and health conditions of the underprivileged children in our country.
Most of us take for granted the basic necessities of life: food, water, shelter, health, education and family. But there are millions of children in our country who do not have these essential necessities, who do not have any hope for the future. our goal is to help provide these necessities for impoverished children throughout the country and focus on integral development that seeks to reduce the root causes of poverty.
The vision of Shawpno Rath is a poverty – free Bangladesh. They have started their journey with this vision, knowing fully well that they have a long way to go.
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