Mojar Ishkool : Samia Sultana Lira writes about a promising youth initiative Mojar Ishkool

Innitiative

In most afternoons while wandering in Chobirhaat area, if you see some street-children and some youths wearing red t-shirt taking an oath together, ‘I want to die building a Bangladesh better than the one I found when I was born’, be sure that they are ‘Mojar Ishkool’ (School of Fun). Or if you see them singing the national anthem standing in lines or even if you see one street-child running towards someone with a red t-shirt for a hug, that too is ‘Mojar Ishkool’.

The story started with merely a Facebook status. Social entrepreneur Arian Arif recalls the very first initiative of this organisation. ‘On January 7, 2013, I got a positive response after updating a status in Facebook asking whether anyone was interested to lend their leisurely afternoons for the betterment of underprivileged children’.

The organisation started its journey on January 10, 2013. On the first day, Arian found two volunteers with him. The number gradually increased. Then with the course of time so many left, many more came along. Like all other noble initiatives in the world, the starting was not so easy. Against all odds, at home and outside, ‘Mojar Ishkool’ has now expanded to total five locations in the capital. Apart from three schools operating under the open sky in Shahbag, Sadarghat, Kamalapur, there are two permanent schools in Agargaon and Maniknagar. They have come in touch with a total of around 50 thousand students in open schools, while about five hundred children are regular students. In the permanent schools, 120 students are studying free of cost according to national curriculum until class two.

In November 2015, it has earned government approval under the title of ‘Odommo Bangladesh Foundation.’ With the slogan of ‘Food-Education-Technology’ this organisation is determined to rehabilitate and turn this burden of uneducated children into an asset of the country.

Why the play with the name ‘Mojar Ishkool’, not ‘school’? In response to this question, Md. Shakil Mridha, one of the coordinators says, ‘School is an English word. Have you noticed how the children are pronouncing the word? It’s ‘ishkool’, not school. We named our school in our native accent— ishkool. They are more comfortable with it’.

Mojar Ishkool’ doesn’t care only for the education of the street-children. Coordinator Hasibul Hasan says, ‘Do you think it’s possible for a child to become a scholar with an empty stomach? I don’t think so. So, we provide them food with proper nutrition on every class-day.’ Most surprisingly, though it’s a school by name, its main motive is not bringing out scholars, especially in open schools. Children are never forced to study. Rather they’re encouraged to choose the path of their interest, be it related to study or not.

Headmistress of the school at Maniknagar and coordinator Zakia Sultana says, ‘Our main target is to give them mental support and ensure a sound childhood. Also, to make them feel that someone is there for them in their distressed condition. Then come education’. On t his context, I can recall a street-child Sakib, who said, ‘Teachers of other schools used to scold and beat us. But here, I find only love and affection from them’. With their motherly maintenance and care, the executives proved their words, indeed.

Children take part in oath taking, national anthem, physical training, dancing, drawing, origami and many other activities. In special days, such as Independence Day, Victory Day, the school arranges cultural programmes in which student get to perform.

Headmistress of Agargaon School Zerin Akter says, ‘We treat street-children as part of our family. And to give them family environment we arrange 6 festivals a year — cake festival, sports festival, fruit festival, Eid festival, Anondo (joy) festival and winter festival. In time of choosing dresses for the festival of Eid, we always emphasise on the current trend and the children’s choice, while in winter festival we look for comfort and quality in winter clothes.’

The school believes in bringing smiles in the face of these forgotten children. Its activities are run by volunteers, mostly comprising of students from colleges and universities. In total there are 931 volunteers and and 19 executives. Volunteers act as primary donors. They are proud to say, ‘Mojar Ishkool’ doesn’t take any donation from foreigners. Bangladeshi well-wishers from home and abroad contribute in a systematic way named ‘Sponsor a child’ where one person might bear the expenses of one or more children. Besides, Bata Children programme helps the Agargaon section of the school. ‘Our true success is when we can bring back a street-child from derailed paths like drugs, criminal acts or begging. We are very happy to say, these 120 students in the two schools are now leading an enlightened life giving up on those misacts. Holding the hand of ‘Molar Eshkol’, from street children they became regular students and I think it’s a huge achievement in five years of involvement’, says Arian.

With successes and impediments ‘Molar Eshkol’ is going to step on their sixth year in this upcoming January. It’s now planning for opening schools outside the capital and starting vocational training in schools. Not only that, ‘Molar Eshkol’ has started working for the construction of a shelter named ‘Oromo Bangladesh Children Village’ in Manikganj where at least 50 children will be raised with care and adequate facilities.

When I asked about their aim Arian says, ‘In this case, you’ll find an interesting difference between us and other organisations. We don’t want to last forever. We’ll be happy when a single child won’t come to our school. Because that’s when we’ll know there’s no child left in any street of Bangladesh and that’s where our goal lies’.

Youths in red are marching day and night like knights heal the sorrow of the streets.

 

Samia Sultana Lira is a student of University of Dhaka

 

 

Comments are closed.