Bangladeshi scouts taking on the world
Scouting has been popular in Bangladesh since the 1970s. What started out as a voluntary movement founded by British army officer Robert Baden-Powell in early 1900s has reached schools and colleges all over the country. Bangladesh regularly participates in international scouting events -- giving students an opportunity to become global members of society.
Over 200 scouts have been selected to represent Bangladesh at the 24th World Scout Jamboree to be held from July 22 to August 2 in West Virginia, USA. The jamboree is a social and educational event where scouts will be able to hone their skills and exchange viewpoints with members from other countries. The Daily Star sat with some of the selected scouts and discussed their journey so far.
The selected members are definitely excited to be able to attend the global event. “Around 40,000 scouts and leaders from around the world will participate. We’ll have the opportunity to observe and learn from each other’s culture and tradition,” said Sheikh Redwanul Islam, a student of Ideal School and College.
“This is going to be my 10th jamboree. I was selected for the world jamboree in 1963 but couldn’t go as a scout due to illness,” said Afzal Hossain, head of Bangladesh contingent for this year’s jamboree. “These children are extremely lucky to be able to go there. When a scout goes to a world jamboree, the experience will benefit them for the rest of their life.”
In an era when global integration is constantly increasing, all agreed that thinking in a global perspective is important. “We not only want to serve our country but also contribute positively around the world, strengthening the scouting movement in the process,” Redwanul said.
But how can scouting benefit someone and what makes it special? “Since we are Bengalis, our parents are usually overprotective and tend to pamper us. But as scouts, we learn to be self-reliant and independent,” Redwanul answered.
“We always follow a chain of command. By doing so, we can learn a lot like developing discipline and following instructions to accomplish tasks swiftly,” said Tasnim Sultana Nafisa, a student of Viqarunnisa Noon School and College.
“One of the major skills we learn is leadership,” said Ramisa Nawer, a student of Viqarunnisa. “I can confidently say that compared to a regular student, scouts have better leadership qualities. Scouting also teaches us to be prepared for any unforeseen situation.”
The number of scouts is increasing every year, according to annual scout censuses. But girl scouts are disproportionately fewer than boy scouts.
When asked about this, Ramisa said, “In Bangladesh, all women face some form of discrimination. Sometimes our parents are not comfortable with their daughters staying outside for too long, and scouting is all about being outdoors. But in my opinion, scouting is really important for girls because through this I’ve learned how to react and take action when something bad happens.”
“Sometimes we have to stay out, and relatives and neighbours comment on this. But now my family supports me because they’ve seen the improvement in me. Now my mother tells everyone to be scouts,” said Afsara Tasnim, a Viqarunnisa student.
Ramisa added, “The situation has improved immensely. I think if the media highlights that scouts are going to international events and positively contributing to society, girls and their parents will be drawn more to the movement. Any exposure, including word of mouth is beneficial.”
Indeed, the situation is improving. The rate of girls joining scouts is much higher now. With continued achievements, one day there might just be equal number of boys and girls in scouts.