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Every child has the right to go to a good school

Marina, age 9, with her parents and younger brother in Bangladesh
Marina, age 9, with her parents and younger brother in Bangladesh
June 29, 2012

Nine-year-old Marina was a good student before she was forced to leave school. This happened soon after she missed several days in grade 3 because of her illness. She had to go to Dhaka with her parents to receive treatment.

However, having had to return home untreated because of the prohibitive expense of a hospital stay, Marina was sorely disappointed.

But Marina was not alone. Almost 3.2 million Bangladeshi children, including those, like Marina, who are destitute or disabled, as well as those who work or live in remote areas, do not attend school.

Marina was lucky, however: with transfer certificate in hand, she found a new school, a Plan-supported registered non-government school also nearby her home in Lamonirhat District.

Marina’s school and 330 other similar schools in the same district are part of Plan Bangladesh’s quality primary education (QPE) program, whose main objective is to make sure that every child—even the ill—gets a good-quality primary education.

At first, Marina thrived: a bright student with a passion for studying, she soon made friends with students and teachers alike. She was even elected a member of the school’s child ministry, a sort of student council established under the quality primary education program, and helped manage school development activities.

Soon, though, Marina was struggling. Her vision deteriorated and she couldn’t see to read or write. Knowing how poor Marina’s parents were, the head teacher arranged for her to get help at Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service, a non-governmental organization that treats children from poor families for free.

The news was not good: Marina had cataracts and she was severely diabetic. She needed treatment right away. The Diabetic Society Hospital was willing to treat her for free, but the associated costs were beyond the capacity of her parents to pay.

The head teacher of Marina’ school was determined to help: “My first thought was that Marina is a child and if we do not take any initiative she may die.”

Despite initial resistance, the president of the school management committee, another initiative supported by Plan, was equally determined to help: “When I was collecting money from the community, especially from parents, I was criticized; but now others are saying it was a very good initiative.”

Soon children, parents, teachers, school management committee members, and local leaders in the community had raised enough for Marina’s eye operation and her hospital stay. Perhaps more touching was the moral support provided by her teachers, who visited her in rotation.

Marina’s successful treatment taught the school community an important lesson: the strength of collaborative action. One assistant teacher captured the sense of empowerment that all felt: “This initiative developed our confidence that we can do anything for our children…. There are many tasks in addition to teaching which we can do successfully.”

Such confidence will be needed in the future as Marina’s school and other Plan schools carry out their school improvement plans which will improve student achievement by enhancing curriculum delivery, creating positive learning environments, establishing effective school management systems, and increasing the involvement of parents and communities.

Their specific components include child development centers and pre-schools, health and sanitation initiatives, teacher training, effective instructional materials and a reading guarantee, reform of student assessments, and, of course, inclusive education. Marina particularly enjoys her school’s child-managed school library and co-curricular activities.

Today Marina has rejoined her classmates at school and is doing well. She aspires to be a doctor, and the Diabetic Society Hospital, in recognition of her intelligence and pursuit of learning, has promised her a job when she grows up. She celebrates the achievement of her new school: “How proud I am of it!”

Learn more about Plan's work in Bangladesh

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