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Home  > Our Work > Learning > Story from the Field


Story from the field




Three cousins - Ratna, Shakila and Rupali are the grade four students of boat school in the north-western part of Bangladesh, which is seasonally flooded every year. Boat school has become an integral part of their life, comes every afternoon to their village six days in a week. The three sisters come to the school as a group. They sit in the front row and attend the class. Ratna is the most studious student of her class, known as the First Girl.  


Ratna Khatun, a ten years’ old girl, was born in a landless family at the Madhyapara village of Chalanbeel, largest wetland of the country. ‘My father was not ready to send me to school as I am a girl child. One day Nasrin Apa (boat school teacher) came to my parents and told him to send me to school as it comes to our village’, said Ratna. ‘Now Ratan (brother) also goes to the boat school. He is a grade one student’ Ratna added.




Deljan begum, 60 years old, Ratna’s grand mother does not know how to count. Often she was poorly paid when she tried to sale her agricultural products to the market. Ratna’s education at boat school proved a great help to her. She helps grand mother in counting money when she sales the crystallized form of date juice to local market. Finally Deljan made a profit last year and rewarded Ratna with a goat. Along with another goat borrowed from neighbour, Ratna started to rear goats. Ratna has three goats now and plans to have a family of ten-twelve goats. ‘I want to sale some of my goats to market in future and then buy a cow. It will give us milk and help my father in agriculture’ said Ratna. ‘Also I shall keep some of the goats. Because I play with them in the evening. Sometimes the goats are lost, I start looking for them everywhere and finally find it at my home. Goats know their way back to home’ Ratna added. Sakila, Ratna’s cousin says ‘‘Ratna inspires us a lot –I along with Rupali have started to rear four goats.’’


On a foggy morning of this year’s winter, Ratna sitting at the courtyard of her thatched house, expresses her dream for future, ‘ I get medicine from boats, it helps us when we are sick, that’s why I want to be a doctor, like the doctor in the healthcare boat. I want to help my village people during the disaster.’ Indeed, in the remote river basins of north-western Bangladesh flooding is having a profound impact. ‘Water surrounds our village, we have no way to move but to use the raft’ said Ratna. ‘In spite of the situation we have, we still can continue study at the boat school’ she said.


Jarina Kathun, Ratna’s mother said, ‘Ratna taught us how to write our names and count money. She helps us to understand letters’. Jarina attended group meeting on women right issues. ‘It helped me to know our rights to education and information. Now I hope to bring up my children in a better way’ Jarina said. Shidhulai boats use onboard solar Photovoltaic modules to generate all the electricity needed and distributes the surplus energy among the families through solar lamps. Shidhulai develops these low cost lamps. ‘The solar lamps help us a lot. I can stitch kathas during the night while I am free. Then I sell it to the market. With the income we can provide better food and clothes to Ratna and Ratan.’ She added. ‘I can study well at the night, also my sister spends more time on reading books and getting good exam results’ said 5 years old Ratan.


Along the winding rivers that flow around the mud-hut villages, mosques and rice fields here, 230 miles north-west of the capital, the boat schools are so loved that crowds of children cheer upon seeing them dock. Each boat school consists of a classroom for 30 to 35 students, computer, hundreds of books, and electronic resources. ‘I really love computer. I can write names of Shakila, Rupali … … … any name. I enjoy cartoons on the monitor. I have learnt many things – health & hygiene and child rights. I also borrow books from here. I read off the story book and my brother listens to it. Sometimes my grand morther asks me to bring religious books. I read and she listens.’






© 2013 Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha