A life dedicated to working children in Bangladesh | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 15, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:52 AM, September 15, 2018

A life dedicated to working children in Bangladesh

Students recall Ucep founder Cheyne on his death anniversary

He could have lived his life like others in his own country, New Zealand, but Lindsay Allan Cheyne thought differently and decided to dedicate his life for the welfare of the children of Bangladesh.

His endeavours made him a true friend of Bangladesh. He proved that friendship knows no nationality, race or background.

Today, the non-government organisation founded by Cheyne, Ucep (Underprivileged Children's Educational Programmes) Bangladesh, is one of the best education and technical training providers -- serving about 50,000 working children and youth annually who either did not enroll in school or dropped out before completing their primary education.

Cheyne came to Bangladesh on a British relief mission after a tornado devastated the country in 1970, said Tahsinah Ahmed, chief executive officer (CEO) of Ucep Bangladesh.

In 1971, the Liberation War broke out. The plight of the affected children had a significant impact on him and he decided to do something to help.

Cheyne decided to quit his job and stay in Bangladesh. He developed the project “Ucep” in 1972 aiming to provide basic education and training of working children but could not find donors for the project. But he was determined, so he initiated the project with his own savings, involving 60 working children, Tahsinah added.

He reached out to Dhaka University's social welfare department, who permitted Cheyne to use the corridor and three of its classrooms in the evening.

In the 1970s, Cheyne lost his family -- wife and two sons -- in an accident. It is believed that the grief and emotional void motivated him to work for the distressed children.

Cheyne reached out to various donors and travelled to different countries with some of his students for raising funds. By the end of 1974, he was able to mobilise some external support and eventually set up one hostel and several schools in Segunbagicha, Karwan Bazar, Jafarabad and Jigatola, she continued.

“Cheyne was not just a teacher; he was a friend, mentor and guardian to his students,” said one of those 60 students, Ramiz Uddin, who works for an NGO now.

“We used to polish shoes or sell peanuts on the road for a living. Cheyne managed to convince some of us to join his evening classes after work. Back in 1972, there was a dormitory in Segunbagicha where I lived with other underprivileged children,” he added.

“One day, I was burning up with fever and developed blisters. All I can remember is that I closed my eyes in pain, at the dormitory.

When I opened them at night, I found myself in Cheyne's Dhanmondi residence. He cleaned my blisters and nursed me until I got better,” Ramiz recalled.

“Simplicity, hope and love for mankind -- Cheyne had them in abundance. He often arranged food for street children,” said another student Abul Hashem, a readymade garment factory owner.

Today marks the 32nd death anniversary of Lindsay Allan Cheyne.

He lies in peace at the Christian Cemetery in Narinda, Dhaka.

Every year, Ucep Bangladesh observes the day across the country through different programmes, including discussions and drawing competitions.

At present, there are 10 Ucep technical schools, which are registered training organisations (RTO) and recognition of prior learning centres (RPLs) in Bangladesh, alongside 16 outreach centres (including two government centres).

Ucep also has 33 general schools across the country providing education in accordance with the national curriculum, said the Ucep Bangladesh CEO.

Cheyne was born in Wellington, New Zealand on November 3, 1931.

 

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