Amidst the greenery of a town in southern Bangladesh is a small, one-room home where 12-year-old Jannatul and her family live. Where the bare wooden fence lets in sunlight, letters of the Bangla alphabet are visible on the walls - a symbol of young Jannatul’s journey towards school.
Support quality, inclusive education for girlsBy 6 a.m. her father leaves home to work as a rickshaw puller and her mother begins the household duties, while Jannatul, who has impaired mobility, slowly walks to school through the tranquil village. Accustomed to the route, she waves to familiar faces, including children her own age who are heading off to work as housemaids or daily labourers.
When the school day ends, Jannatul’s list of to-dos is not over. After a brief break, she engages in chores for her family, temporarily relieving her mother from her morning to midnight schedule of housekeeping.
“I sweep our yard and home, clean saucers and pick dry leaves and wood for the stove so we can cook food. It’s a huge task, but I am used to it,” says Jannatul.
Cycle of poverty creates barriers to education
“I brought her a bad fate - she was born with a disability. I used to wonder what she would do in her life and whether anyone would even marry her,” says Jannatul’s mother, Manju.
Now I have a dream for my future.
Her disability, societal barriers and stereotypes in school infrastructure meant that at first Jannatul struggled in education. Occasionally she missed days due to caring for her little brother, or roadside flooding during the rainy season making the paths impassable.
Jannatul's father, Hanif, describes his experiences of school:
“Since we were brought up in a rural village, education was not that important for us. None of my family went to school. We worked at home and in the fields as farmers; grew crops, caught fish from the pond and sold them at the market. Now I am a rickshaw puller, my wife is a housemaid, and this is how we earn money to manage our family.”
Thanks to education from her Plan International Bangladesh supported school, Jannatul is now the first in her family to be able to read and write.
Children with disabilities can feel isolated
Jannatul revealed that previously, her disability made her feel isolated, nervous and too shy to talk with other students in class.
That was before Plan International Bangladesh’s Quality Inclusive Education and Skills Development Programme was implemented in 2014. The school environment is now more suitable for children with disabilities, and teachers have had training to become better equipped to meet each child's specific needs.
With help from the South Asian Partnership, Plan International has constructed a ramp and a disability-friendly toilet at the school and decorated the classrooms in bright colours. In addition, a concrete path now connects the school to the main road for safer access for all students, including those with disabilities.
Jannatul also learned a lot from the programme's Student Council Training and Community Resource Team. Her grades have gone up and she is now thriving alongside her classmates in mainstream education.
‘In my school, we have libraries with different story books and education related materials, sports and play equipment; I feel like I want to stay at school, not go home!”
Determined, Jannatul adds, “Now I have a dream for my future.”
Enabling environment encourages girls to thrive
Jannatul is determined to break through barriers and attend secondary school, then university, in order to become a teacher. Needless to say, her love of education and ambition for her future has made her parents and teachers proud.
Jannatul shows her thirst for education all the time.
“Jannatul shows her thirst for education all the time. She is organised, attentive and very positive compared to her peers. I think inclusive education, teacher and peer support and the enabling environment have motivated her in this way,” her teacher says.
Teachers at Jannatul's school have received training in inclusive education, Braille and sign language, school management, preventing dropping out and creating an enabling environment.
The Quality Inclusive Education and Skill Development Programme has been implemented as a pilot project in 50 schools across 5 districts in Bangladesh.
We are the next
We are calling on world leaders to fund quality, inclusive education for girls, so they can achieve their ambitions and have the chance to become leaders in their communities.