Youth In Action
Learning Structures, Building Lives
"Tell me what you want to be when you graduate?” asked Professor M R Kabir to one of his students at the CE Department of University of Asia Pacific. “A politician!” was the firm and confident answer of Seraj, the student who was asked.
“That sounds interesting. Why do you want to go to politics after completing engineering school?” asked a more curious and amazed Dr Kabir. “I would like to serve the people”, Seraj answered. “I believe we can serve people better in other ways, can't we?” Dr Kabir.
The story behind setting up the 'Sholpo Meyadi Shishu Shikkha Karjokrom' (SMSSK) or the pre-school project for needy children started in this fashion. Professor Dr M R Kabir, Acting Vice Chancellor and Head of the Department of CE at UAP, geared the exuberance of his promising civil engineering students who wanted to serve the community with a meaningful project.
Students of the CE department initiated the project with a view of supporting and assisting slum children with basic education (pre-school) for free of cost. Students are involved in the total process of visiting the slums, identifying the target recipients, bringing them to the UAP campus (where they would get free food and attend classes taken by the students of Civil Engineering) for edutainment. Students of the SMSSK are also taken to study tours or leisure trips for recreation. If there is any major religious festival like Eid, the children are provided with Eid gifts to enjoy the day joyfully.
Students of Civil Engineering department of UAP act voluntarily for this noble cause, setting example and leading the way to follow for others.
The project has been sponsored by Professor M R Kabir initially. Later on, Professor Tarek Uddin, Dr Itekhar Anam and Fateh Azamall faculties at the Department of CE at UAP joined the cause. Students conduct the classes of the SMSSK in the evening, after their regular classes. “It was very tough to get the first batch of students. We then invited the parents of the children to have a look at what we do,” said one student volunteer to the project. However, scenarios changed within a few days. The parents of the children were delighted to see their kids in uniforms, getting ready for school.
Once a batch is formed, children are taught basic manners, while at the same time their existing good habits are worked on. They are provided with soaps and toothpaste. They are taught English, Bangla and Math in order to prepare them for getting admitted to the mainstream primary schools. The students are provided with snacks as they come to the classes. They also enjoy cartoon and children's movie shows arranged by the teachers. The three month long courses prepare the children to compete with other privileged students preparing for the primary school admission. This whole process is absolutely free of charge.
After graduation from SMSSK, they are admitted to the primary schools in neighbourhood and monitored by the CE students of UAP. Last winter, Dr Kabir distributed winter clothes among the students of SMSSK.
Graduating students of the SMSSK are given formal farewell where the parents' views are asked and taken into consideration. While the students of the Civil Engineering department continue to learn new methods and techniques of building strong and reliable structure, they carry on with their efforts to contribute and enlighten themselves and the community with activities like SMSSK.
The students of Civil Engineering (CE) department of the University of Asia Pacific (UAP) have been organising pre-school education sessions for slum children since July 2009. Three batches of students have already graduated from the programme and the fourth batch is in progress.
(Asif Imran is the Assistant Registrar at University of Asia Pacific)