Showing the light

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Pns:At age 12, all he knew was work. The boy never could picture a world outside of the workplace -- an electric switch factory -- until he enrolled in VERC School. Despite continuing work, Jenarul Islam has learnt how to dream.

"I want to study and become an engineer," said the boy, now in class III.

It was also inconceivable for his mother, Fatema Begum.

"I did not think my son could ever study," said the single mother, who works as a cleaner in a private hospital in Savar. "I thank VERC for taking such a good initiative."

Jenarul's father, Alam Mia, left her for another woman.

VERC (Village Education Resource Center), a social organisation, has set up 40 schools across Savar, outside the capital, since 2012.

Founded under the project “Ending Child labour in Bangladesh”, these schools have arranged education for 1,400 working children free of cost.

The Terre des Homes – Netherlands, children's organisation, supports the initiative.

Jenarul still works and earns Tk 2,500 every month. His mother uses the money to pay the house rent meet some other family expenditure because her income, Tk 4,500, is insufficient to bear the burden of the family of three.

"I give my mother all Tk 2,500," said the boy, who has a two-year-old younger sister.

The family hails from Faridpur and lives in Savar's Katlapur area.

A glimmer of light also shone on the mind of 11-year-old Sadea Akter. She does not think any more that her life would be confined to the house of her employer forever.

Now studying in class V, the former house help said, "I want to come to school regularly and become a teacher some day."

After enrolling in VERC School, she switched her work.

"Once I used to work as a domestic worker. Now I work for a tupi (prayer cap) making factory. I get Tk 3 per hat. By doing it, I earn Tk 200 to 300 daily."

From the abyss of poverty, 14-year-old Dulal Sheikh also sees light.

A fifth-grader at VERC School's Bhagolpur campus, he said, "I did not imagine I could study my work as my family is too poor to support my education."

"I want to graduate from university," he said.

A teacher of Bhagolpur campus, Nasima Akter Tonne, said, "We have been working with child workers for the last five years."

"We visit places like factory, market, or tea stall. Wherever children work, we have discussions with their employers about their education. Then the employers send the children to our school."

"Besides institutional education, children are taught manners, workplace , and health issues," said Nasima. "Our students are more aware than those of other schools."

She said, "We also give them all educational equipment free of cost."

VERC launched the initiative in 2012, said Babul Moral, project manager of VERC. "There are 6,500 working children in our working area. We have been able to arrange education for 1,400 of them."

Babul, however, said the size of donations for the project was declining day by day. On behalf of VERC, he requested the rich people to extend their support for the initiative.

VERC started its journey in 1977 with the vision of building a society where every individual would have the opportunity to maximise her/his potentials.

It got registered as a development organisation in 1981.

PNS/Tamanna Khan

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