Established in 1972 with the motto ‘Help to Learn, Skills to Earn’, UCEP Bangladesh serves children and youth from poor and disadvantaged families, who have dropped out of primary and secondary schools mainly due to poverty.
Established in 1972 with the motto ‘Help to Learn, Skills to Earn’, UCEP Bangladesh serves children and youth from poor and disadvantaged families, who have dropped out of primary and secondary schools mainly due to poverty. It provides Second Chance Education to children and ensures decent jobs to youth through technical vocational education and training, skills and enterprise development. It serves about 35,000 students annually, of which 50% are females, 10% are persons with disabilities, 2% belong to ethnic or occupational minorities and about 40% are urban working children, who need to provide for themselves or their families. UCEP Bangladesh works in Dhaka (city and Jatrabari), Chattogram, Khulna, Barisal, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Rangpur, and Gazipur.
Besides training and orientation on safety measures before the closure, which has been followed up till date, UCEP Bangladesh has been providing humanitarian aid (food and essential items) to the most vulnerable families among its students in different regions, since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, with the support of local level philanthropists and governmental welfare initiatives. Parents of most of the students are daily wage earners, working in the informal sector, whose livelihoods have been stalled due to the COVID-19 crisis. Till date, it has distributed relief to over 12,000 families responding to their hardship.
3,217 students from the poorest families were supported last week with aid provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) of the Australian High Commission, one of UCEP Bangladesh’s core donors, under the ‘COVID-19 Response for Vulnerable Children and Youth’ project. Students from 32 general schools in the eight working areas of UCEP Bangladesh received 20 kg rice, 2 kg lentil, 2 kg sugar, 2 litres edible oil, 1 kg salt, 2 kg flour, 4 pieces of hand soap and 10 pieces of masks. Priority was given to the poorest female students, learners with disabilities or from disadvantaged families. Government officials from different regions attended the programs as chief guests and distributed the relief among the students. It is expected that this support will help to reduce the hardship of the families, to some extent.
Besides the benevolence of donors like DFAT, staff of UCEP Bangladesh have been collecting cash and kind and providing these to help the families of its students, but long term support is required as most families have already been pushed into higher level of poverty and are in extreme vulnerability as long as they are not able to resume their work.
Tahsinah Ahmed, executive director of UCEP Bangladesh, expressed her gratitude to DFAT and all others who have provided support in response to COVID-19’s impact on the families of UCEP Bangladesh’s students, and earnestly urges others to come forward to support this cause. “Besides the risks on health, psychological wellbeing and livelihood, the risk of increase in child labour and child marriages has become high, alongside the increase in poverty, unemployment and dropout rates. Social safety net interventions and humanitarian aid must increase, as well as alternate income generation opportunities,” she said.