Photo by Shirantha Perera. World Vision.
As a sponsorship promoter in shopping centres and door-to-door, I used to narrate stories about the “difference” that the World Vision was making in the field. Witnessing that “difference” in the field was my main purpose during my first field visit to Bangladesh last August 2015.
My visit to An Inclusive Approach to Empowering Working Children project (supported by DFAT) in Dhaka City was an eye opener about child labour. This project initiated in 2014, aims to reduce the number of children engaged in hazardous jobs in slums. Slums in Dhaka are residential areas for the most vulnerable communities made of migrated landless population of diverse backgrounds, hardly bonded with the neighbourhood. Slums are often dirty places with waste everywhere and open defecation around houses, hence with many spreading diseases.
Many children in these communities do not have the luxury of attending school, instead are forced to work to make an income for the family. The project has set up 20 learning centres where, with a local partner organisation, it conducts non-formal education programmes for 1000 children who are involved in some hazardous jobs. This educational program prepares the working children to gain skills on reading, writing and arithmetic, so that they can join the formal school education system.
I met Koli, a 12-year old girl during my visit to the project. She was an informal garment worker in Dhaka city. Instead of going to school, she used to do ‘karchupi’ (manually designing clothes using a needle) work with her mother and elder sister at home for five to seven hours a day to earn for her family. This was a very hard job as Koli was forced exert her little eyes, that led to headaches and other complications which could have hampered her vision as well.
The project’s learning centre became a haven for Koli to learn basic skills by completing a six months non-formal education. At the end of the program Koli gained admission through a qualifying test to grade four in a local primary school. Including Koli, 10 more working children from the learning centre have been admitted to formal schools since its initiation in 2014. At present, there are 50 working children at the Learning Centre preparing for formal school in the future.
Koli’s father is a security guard with a monthly income of AUD 109.71, which is hardly sufficient to provide for his six-member family. But they are determined to continue Koli’s education.
Koli is very happy to be able to go to school and her dream is to become a doctor and a professional singer. The community believes that these learning centres will lead to new pathways for working children, thanks to the support of World Vision.