Our schools are different from other schools in a couple of ways. The main difference is this: while our Mothers of Intention programme is for the purpose of bringing education to children too poor for school, our schools are not for children – they are for mothers who then, every day, teach neighbourhood children what they have learned.
The other significant difference is that we target the poorest children in the urban slums rather than in villages. The forbidding urban slums are to where many of the poorest families migrate in their search for employment – employment for both parents and children. Most find none, beyond circumstances no better than slavery. In Bangladesh, most families find moving from village to city slum means their quality of life takes a nose dive, with far higher air pollution, noise pollution, far more crowded living situation with tiny hovel in which to live, and often it involves a separation from extended family and greater social isolation, etc. Those then born into slums lack the community advantages of even the poorest villages.The urban slums of Bangladesh are extremely difficult places in which to work and live. It is a testament to the mothers in the Mothers of Intention programme that they make the tremendous effort involved to get to the school each day and then teach a group of neighbourhood children – in addition to everything else they must do in their tough daily lives. So we ensure our schools are happy, welcoming (and safe) places that also become the social centres of their lives and set a progressive atmosphere throughout the areas.
To take a closer look into a classroom, including a message from our Director, Dr. Tanyss Munro, click
We currently operate 16 schools – 9 in the slums of Dhaka, a city approaching 20 million, and 7 in Khulna, the third largest city in Bangladesh. Here are the schools, although some of them are about to be renamed in honour of generous Canadians who have adopted whole schools:
2. Basundhara FreeSchool
3. Suzanne Women’s School
4. Angela Women’s School (named in honour of our Chairperson)
5. Gem Women’s School
6. Alirmore FreeSchool
7. Sabujbag Nirala FreeSchool
8. Khorhednagor FreeSchool
9. Alamnagor FreeSchool
10. Teligatee FreeSchool
11. West Teligatee FreeSchool
12. Middle Teligatee FreeSchool
13. Satarkul Women’s FreeSchool
14. P.M. Iyer Women’s School
15. Sidney by the Sea Women’s School
16. Santevia Women’s School
Each of these schools is a mean rented room or double room in the neighbourhood where the mothers live. Our schools are not unaffected by the floods that beset Bangladesh.
The first school (Tanyss Women’s School) opened in January, 2006.Many of these mothers are heroic in overcoming the challenges they must in order to make the time to come to school and to then teach neighbourhood children each day, often defying and surmounting opposition to their education from within their homes. Many of our teachers are also remarkable: all of the teachers in the Khulna area, for instance, volunteered their time for the first few months in order to get things going even before we could find money for the schools. Many of the husbands and fathers and mothers-in-law are also to be commended. Although many women experienced serious opposition and, often, hostility to their education in the beginning, most husbands are now just as seriously supportive of their wife/ daughter-in-law for the good she is doing in the neighbourhood.
AS is not a bricks-and-mortar operation: we don’t suffer such costs. We rent premises in the slums where we’re needed most. Classrooms are spare: women sit on mats on dirt floors; but what transpires within the schools is first-rate.
We opened our first school with an initial cost of $60. We believe that the $60 mothers’ school is the answer to the world’s desperate education deficit.
Where are the desks? Where are the chairs? Does this look like a school to you? Some of the luxuries we haven’t got…