Children shop stationeries from the shopkeeper-less store at Little Flower Kindergarten School in Dumuria of Khulna. Photo: Star
Crisp notebooks, shiny pencils, fresh erasers and untouched sharpeners bring smiles to every schoolchild. New stationery encourages studies.
But imagine a stationery shop where purchasing goes one epic step further. Imagine a store that encourages honesty.
The Sonamukh Satota Shopping, a store inside Little Flower Kindergarten School compound in Dhamalia village of Dumuria, Khulna, is one of such kind. It is a store with a difference, without any salesperson.
Here, schoolchildren pick whatever they want to buy from the shelves, consult a price chart and deposit the money in a tin-box. In other words, they look after themselves.
"The objective of the store is to promote honesty from a young age," says AM Kamrul Islam Akunji, 52, one of the founders of Wasek Ali Akunji Education Trust that started the non-profit stationery store in 2011.
The trust was founded in 1992 as a family initiative by Kamrul Islam, additional superintendent of Manikganj police, and his industrialist brother AM Harunur Rashid, 55. It has been named after their father, a Liberation War supporter killed by Pakistani collaborators in 1971.
Initially the trust organised interschool educational and cultural competitions. But over time it began providing needy students with supplies in the once poverty-stricken locality.
The funds for the trust come from the profits of a Tk 40 lakh family investment.
"We found many talented children leaving school just because their parents are unable to pay the fees," said Sheikh Abdul Jalil, director of the trust and Kamrul Islam's former college teacher.
At present, the trust operates in 82 high schools and madrasas and seven colleges in the upazila. It processes 30 financial aid applications per month based on applicants' needs. A number of recipients are now studying in public universities and medical colleges while others have already embarked upon their careers.
The Wasek Ali Akunji Education Trust also publishes a monthly magazine named Sonamukh. It contains success stories from students, farmers and entrepreneurs with the best articles, stories and poems winning awards. An annual reception is arranged for the winners.
After their mother's demise in 2005, the Akunji brothers established Sokina Ali Seba Project to assist farmers, fishermen, women and young people -- from providing quality seeds and interest-free loans to training in computers and English.
Around 60 women have been given training and sewing machines under this project.
"So far, we have donated more than 500 cows to poor families in the locality on condition that the parents will send their children to school," said Kamrul Islam, who in his policing career has contributed to UN peacekeeping missions.
The project also arranges medical camps from time to time for the elderly and women.
"There are many affluent and educated people in society, but what counts most is becoming an honest and responsible person," noted Kamrul Islam.
As for Sonamukh Satota Shopping, the initiative has been an outstanding success. Nobody cheats here. Instead, the young customers sometimes pay more in cases of a shortage of change.