So I’ve been doing the graduate school thing for almost two years (one semester left!). In this capacity, I have worked a full-time job and gone to school nightly twice a week for three hours per class and sometimes on Saturdays. Outside of class, I probably spend an additional five to seven hours a week studying. Bottom line it’s exhausting at times but I know that when I finished, it would be worth it.

I mention this because while I’ve done this as an adult, there is children here living in the slums of Bangladesh doing the same thing and they are only 12 years old. Yesterday and today we visited a school programs called Grameen Shikkha, a non-formal school program for slum children and initiative of Grameen which aim is to offer a basic education (English, Bangla, math skills, social sciences and the environment) so that when they grow older, their employment opportunities are enhanced. Odds are that without this program, these children would have no education opportunities. Currently there are twenty of these programs serving more than 450 students. The programs we went to observe were located in both rural and urban settings. The urban school was about ten minutes from our hotel while the rural one was in a village about an hour away.

The urban classroom students were in the fifth grade and housed in a room no bigger than most of our living rooms – maybe 10 ft. by 12 ft. There are no desks, only a floor. Students sit on bamboo rugs in a circle with their books piled next to them. There were about twenty students in class today. School runs from 2pm to 5 pm. Outside of these hours, all of these children work. Most get up early to work (around 6 am) in whatever their family business is – mostly tailoring – in this neighborhood. After class, they return and work until at least 10 pm. The work because the family needs them to as those who live in the slums earn very little (anywhere from $4 – $11 per day depending on what the children there told us their goods sold for) and need their kids to help.

These kids work six days a week with this schedule. I will never complain about my workload again…can you imagine being a child and not having the time to play?

A child's books for classes

 When asked by our interpreter their career goals, we heard teacher, businessman, pilot and doctor. And while I’m not discounting the potential of any of these children, if you had seen the neighborhood (smaller homes, piles of trash, open/broken sewers and narrow alleyways, and very smelly) they reside in, it would seem they will need some breaks to go their way and Grameen Shikkha can be that bit of luck. It just introduced a new scholarship program to help the parents pay for their child’s high school.

The urban classroom…

The rural school was a primary school for five year olds and their class took place in the village Center house.  This classroom is essentially a Head Start Program for these children. They spend two and half hours a day in this program and the goal is to properly prepare for the government’s elementary school system. It was fun, the kids performed for us and they were really cute…

Students performing for us in village program

Listening to teacher…