In a country like Bangladesh, education can often be more of a privilege than a right. Especially in cities like Dhaka, there are hundreds of underprivileged children trying to make a living on the streets,with little or no thought about what the future might hold.
This is where Smallfoot, a youth driven community of more than fifty members, comes in to make a change, one step at a time. They have been responsible for providing quality education (free of cost) to a group of underprivileged kids in the slum area of Janata Housing, in Mirpur. They aim to not only educate these children, but also help the families gain social upward mobility.
Collaborating for change
It all began in January, 2013, when Smallfoot collaborated with the YES Alumni Bangladesh, an association of alumni which successfully completes the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (KL-YES) program funded by the United States. In collaboration with the organisation, Smallfoot started its program to teach 12 students, the objective of which was to provide them with the same standard of education which more privileged children in the country are blessed with.
These children were initially recruited through an announcement around Janata Housing at Mirpur in the capital, and children who used to go to schools and then couldn't study further, or kids who have never been to a school before and were eager to study, were admitted. After doing this for a year, the students were transferred to Time International Academy, where they are studying with all the other children in the area till date.
This year, Smallfoot has won a grant from Harpur Edge through the Harpur Fellows Program for the purpose of launching another initiative - “Tech Through Tech.” The purpose of this initiative is to provide futuristic learning to children – including students of Smallfoot and other children aged between 8-12 years from nearby slum areas, who don't have access to computers.
Preparing them for the future
“The idea is to encourage learning through technology and provide an interactive learning experience through visuals, and also to teach basic computing skills and how to navigate for information. This will aid in creating a better learning process, along with laying a bold infrastructure that will enable the project to expand and grow to become a model for a futuristic education platform,” said Gulshan Jubaed Prince, one of the initiators of the project.
So on August 12, their first step towards ensuring proper execution and implementation of the program took place. The inauguration of “Teach Through Tech” was conducted by Smallfoot at Hive, in Dhanmondi, along with the YES Alumni Bangladesh and Harpur Fellows Program, who are the initiators of the project as well.
“We have already started taking the lab classes in our school and have even managed to take four classes before the inauguration,” said Gulshan. Children who couldn't even turn on computers beforeare now learning how to use software such as Paint and MS Word, and surfing the internet.
“Smallfoot will be hosting these lab classes for two hours during the weekend (Friday and Saturday) for the next six months at Time International school, in the Janata Housing area. These sessions will consist of 10 students, who will be assisted by five volunteers who have returned after the completion of their exchange programs,” informed Jubaed.
“Teach Through Tech” has also gotten support from ecommerce store Daraz.com.bd. They gave the laptops at a discounted price and provided additional goodies to the children. Techynaf, an IT Firm based in Dhaka, is providing the technological support and necessary training for the project.