It was certainly a reality for Tanzina, who lived as many children generally do in rural Bangladesh – according to her parents’ wishes and with flood recovery and tradition being prioritised over her education. Day-to-day, Tanzina would be expected to help her stepmother with housework and her father tend to the animals on his farm.
Going to school was an afterthought that took second place to her daily chores, but that all changed when she came across the Boat Schools along the river, an Educate A Child (EAC) and BRAC project designed to reach out of school children (OOSC) living on the floodplains with quality primary education.
The boat schools pick up children, hold classes and then take students home. Tanzina pleaded with her stepmother in vain to let her go to school. Her family, heavily dependent on the money from her father’s duck farming, could not support her wishes for an education. Tanzina was the eldest child and no one in the family had previously gone to school. “Who would look after the animals? Who would look after your siblings? Will an education help you get married?” her parents questioned. Schooling was seen as a luxury.
Despite this, Tanzina remained undeterred. She went to a boat school teacher for help with persuading her parents. The teacher spoke to her parents regarding the importance of education. Finally, they agreed and Tanzina was soon enrolled.
She was ecstatic the first time she stepped onto a boat school. Since then, Tanzina has attended school regularly. She is currently in class five and aspires to achieve the highest marks possible on the Primary Education Completion Examination. “I lost my mother as a child and my stepmother never considered educating me,” she says. “I’d go to the river everyday with the flocks. Now, I go to school.”
Tanzina has set an example for the rest of her community. Her father says: “The hardships we face are difficult. Initially, I only agreed to let Tanzina study at the teacher’s request. But, after seeing her dedication, I want education for all my children.”
Through this initiative, EAC and BRAC have, to date, enrolled more than 14,000 children (59 per cent of whom are girls) into 500 boat schools.