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Charity school for Rana Plaza victims forced to shut down

  • Published at 02:48 pm August 1st, 2017
  • Last updated at 08:55 pm August 1st, 2017
Charity school for Rana Plaza victims forced to shut down
A charity school for garments workers' children in Savar, 30km outside Dhaka, has been closed for five months as the owner of the property is refusing to let them operate. Shongkolon Pathshala started in 2014 to help Rana Plaza survivors and others poor garments workers by offering free primary education for their children. School authorities said that in March, the owner locked up the rented building in Anandanagar where the school was being run and refused to let them hold classes there. He has also denied them access to the school’s equipment and furniture, which is estimated to be worth Tk10 lakh. Many of the 200 or so students who went to the school had no choice but to move to other schools in the middle of the school year, and those who cannot afford an education otherwise are sitting at home. When asked why the school is closed, Executive Director of Shongkolon Foundation Bangladesh Kazi Monir Hossain said that the owner of the building was not allowing any students, teachers or anyone else into the school. The building's owner, Khandaker Ataur Rahman, a retired Army officer, at first said there was no school in his building. “Is there any deed between the land owner and school authority?” he asked. However, he called the school authorities “cheats” but refused to explain what his complaints were. [caption id="attachment_133999" align="aligncenter" width="800"]The founder of the school said they owed the landlord Tk1.6lakh, but was assured it would not hamper their activities Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune The founder of the school said they owed the landlord Tk1.6lakh, but was assured it would not hamper their activities Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune[/caption] Sumon, caretaker of the building, said that the school owed the building owner about Tk15 Lakh in rent and it was shut down because they could not pay. Kazi Monir Hossain on the other hand said they owed Tk1.16 lakh in rent and the owner had been informed that it was a short term problem. "But suddenly without any prior notice he locked down the building and barred the students and teachers from entering," Monir said. When asked why he had not taken legal action against the school if it owed him money, Ataur said: "I don't want to go through legal hassles." Shongkolon Pathshala has filed a general diary with Savar Police Station asking them to save the school and protect the students' right to education. Assistant headmaster of the school Abu Rayhan explained that they found the school locked up one fine morning. He said: "On March 15, we went to the school and found the school’s main gate locked. Many students were also waiting outside and were surprised to see the lock on the gate as they had attended classes the previous day. "Later we contacted the school authorities and they said they were looking into the matter. Months have gone by but the school has not reopened." Jannatul Ferdous, a grade five at the school, said she suffered as the school had been closed down in the middle of the study year and it was difficult to move to another school. [caption id="attachment_134022" align="aligncenter" width="800"]The education of over 200 students are now jeopardised after the school was forced to shut down Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune The education of over 200 students are now jeopardised after the school was forced to shut down Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune[/caption] She was however able to resume her grade five studies at another school after proving herself to be a meritorious student. Jannatul stood third while promoted to grade five from grade four at the now closed Shongkolon Pathshala. She said: "One day my classmates and I went to the school and found it locked. Our teachers were also there. They said that the school would continue but it did not resume." [arve url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Jrcdl7b394"/] [arve url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8P2KO9KD44"/] Jannatul's mother Surovi Akhter said: "What we know is the building authority locked down the school compound due to money owed by Shongkolon’s Executive Director Monir Hossain." "But we also heard that the owner of the building had a very good relationship with the school authority and Kazi Monir sir. We don’t know how that fell apart." The closing down of the school in the middle of the study year has proved to a difficult situation for the children and their parents who have found it hard to get their kids admitted to other schools.