We continue with out efforts to emphasise that no youth is left behind especially in rural ares so with only a few days left to International Youth Day, we caught up with Ms.Shougat Nazbin Khan. She tells us about her work in a remote area of Bangladesh:
Shougat: I established H. A. Digital School and College in a remote area of Bangladesh to educate disadvantaged poor children and youth. I have implemented innovative digital technology methods to improve the quality of education. I have developed curricula that respond to rural realities. More specifically, I have developed a gender responsive strategy for education, training and entrepreneurship development that responds to the needs of rural people. My institute targets educating marginalized and poor communities which I believe have the immense potential to reduce extreme poverty, improve productivity and uphold environmentally sustainable development.
Tell us more about the initiatives of H.A. Digital School and College.
Shougat: H.A. Digital School and College is not merely a non profit educational institute. The following initiatives have been adopted under my supervision:
Digital technology based education: The main activity of the institute is implementing innovative digital technologies to ensure the most effective and interactive learning. It has a dedicated technical team led by the founder for preparing digital version of text books, developing multimedia classroom environment, and restructuring learning tools.
ICT training: The institute in collaboration with Upazila Youth Development Center provides highly standard ICT training to promote income generation and employment opportunities for rural youth.
Entrepreneurship training: The entrepreneurship training mainly targets the women of the rural communities. They learn how they can emerge as entrepreneurs and implement sustainable business plans. The purpose of the training is to guide and help them identifying potential income-generating activities and initiating business by providing valuable information on loan availabilities, vocational training opportunities, legal procedures and business management as a whole.
Health & environment training: With the help of local NGOs the institute regularly arranges training and workshop programs at its premises for the rural people to raise awareness about health and environment safety issues. They are taught hygiene etiquettes and best practices involved in health and environment in the most effective way.
Counseling service: The institute acknowledges the tremendous need of counseling for the youth and children as they go through a vulnerable phase of life. Therefore, every Friday it hires a psychologist from city to provide counseling service for the students. We also arrange monthly seminars for the rural parents where they learn how to deal with their children at home.
Adult literacy training: The institute offers evening classes for uneducated people (mainly rural professionals like poor farmers) who are often misled and cheated by the opportunistic and powerful people in the village society.
What is the impact you have had thus far?
Shougat: A. Digital School & college serves unprivileged youth and children of rural communities with a focus on socio-economic empowerment of women. Now in its second academic year, 605 (404 male and 201 female) poor children are studying at the institute whereas we had 308 students in its first year. Again, 90% of the teaching staff is female at my institute. The rapid evolution of the institute has indeed broadened the rural society’s vision of the technologies as tools for developing children’s skills and motivating in academic areas. Furthermore, poor environmental conditions and overcrowding were manifested in high levels of ill health among children previously. The students and parents are now receiving health education at the institute which improved their health conditions significantly. However, I particularly faced difficulty to persuade the rural parents to send their female children as they consider it is not worth educating the girls. They consider female children as burden and want them to get married at a very young age. This tendency has led to significant rate of child marriage over the years. Moreover, parents from distant villages are unable to send their female children to school because of poor communication system and safety concerns. Hence, I am considering constructing a hostel at the institute premises only for the female students for the time being to increase the number of female students and to lower the child marriage rate. I hope to complete the project in one and a half years if I can manage funds for it. I would also like to make the training opportunities more accessible for upskilling rural people effectively. In next two years, I want to increase the number of beneficiaries of my initiatives and launch more sustainable projects to ensure social impact at wider scale.
What is your latest initiative?
Shougat: I formed a technical committee which is dedicated for preparing digital version of text books and developing multimedia classroom environment. We have already prepared digital version of text books up to grade 5 & will do the same for upper grades. This is a rigorous work as we are not only digitizing the texts, but also adding interesting pictures, animations and videos for interactive & effective learning. We make digital versions so that we can upload it on internet and people get access to it. Teachers and students around the world will be benefited by this. However, CCTV monitoring of the classes have been implemented to ensure the proper management and teaching quality. Class lectures are broadcast through satellites so that the parents also can track the progress made in the class and guide their children at home.
In this connection, the rural parents were first taught how to access the class lectures through satellite connection from a place where the facility is available. We have also implemented bio metric attendance system and the parents receive SMS regarding their children’s presence in the class. The whole idea is to generate awareness and sincerity among the rural parents about their children’s education and well being.
CYC wishes Shougat all the best of luck with her future endeavours!