Bangladesh: Education Reaches the Slums of Dhaka

It’s hard for me to walk and talk, the heat and humidity of Bangladesh demand attention, I’m sweating and trying my best not to step on trash between the railway tracks. I am consumed on understanding the living conditions of the people in the slum areas of Dhaka. Suddenly my thoughts are interrupted by young girls calling my name.  

I look up to see several young girls are shyly smiling and saying hello to me in Bangla. I am meeting with girls who are graduates of an educational project called “Support Urban Slum Children to Access Inclusive Non-Formal Education” (SUSTAIN).  

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The project, SUSTAIN, aims to increase the access to primary and quality education in a safe environment for the hardest to reach children in urban slums. There are about 3,000 slums in Dhaka city, and I was able to see the living conditions of one of them to understand their reality better.  

SUSTAIN programme was also created for the students who are falling behind and cannot stay inside the formal school system. Since most of the young people are already engaged in the labour market, this educational programme catered study cycle allows for flexible timing and shorting the completion period.

When I met with young girls who were graduates of the SUSTAIN programme, all of them told me that for half the day they must work to support their family. After the SUSTAIN programme, it is encouraged that the students enter the formal education system. Students are also encouraged to take on vocational training and programmes that allow for more specific and hands-on-learning.  

The girls I met with shared their hopes for the future and all of them want to continue their educational studies. It’s inspiring to see these young girls strive towards fulfilling their studies. When I asked this young girl what the importance of education is, she told me, “education is my opportunity to grow, it gives me hope that there is more to life than here in the slums. I don’t want to see my family suffer anymore.”

Seeing children and young people being empowered to fight for their education and believe in a better future is incredible. These young children will continue to go through many challenges and struggles that arise from slum dwelling, but I hope their hearts remain full of positivity and kindness.

Lauren Chan