16 November 2012
Last updated at 09:06
A project that provides solar-powered floating schools in Bangladesh has been nominated for an award at the World Innovation Summit in Education in Doha, Qatar. This year’s shortlisted projects not only “transform education”, but also provide innovative financing of primary education.
The project, initiated by the non-profit organisation Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, aims to provide facilities for uninterrupted education in Bangladesh, especially during the height of monsoon season.
Pressure on land is high with much of the population crammed into a delta of rivers that empties into the Bay of Bengal. The low-lying country is vulnerable to flooding which limits movement.
Mohammed Rezwan, executive director of Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, is a native of Natore district. “I saw first-hand the hardship of riverside communities who have no access to information and the opportunities it affords. With roads impassable during the monsoon, students cannot make the trek to school.”
With a background in architecture and construction, Rezwan took on the challenge. “It is common to see school dropouts in this region. It was difficult for me to accept the situation. I thought that if the children cannot come to the school for lack of proper transportation, then the school should come to them, by boat.”
The boats collect children from various villages along the riverside, each having space for a classroom of 30 students. There are 20 boats in operation, reaching more than 1,600 students.
As well as internet-linked laptops and PCs, the schools also house a well-stocked library.
The schools provide primary education but also run training courses for adults in subjects such as sustainable farming, women’s rights, marketing, nutrition and adaption to climate change.
Low-cost solar lanterns are also provided so that students can continue their studies at home.
At the moment finance for the project comes from local and international contributions but the organisation is exploring alternative business models for future funds. All photos courtesy: Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha.