As the morning sun flooded the brightly painted room of BLOOMS specialised school, Tanzila Akhter, a teenager with hearing impairment, recited a prayer poem.
The verses perhaps reflected the gratitude her classmates felt towards the founder of the school Mohammad Rabiul Karim Kamrul, one of the police officials who lost his life trying to rescue the hostages during the 2016 Holy Artisan Bakery terrorist attack.
The late assistant commissioner (AC) of the Detective Branch of Dhaka Metropolitan Police had established the Beaconing Light Organisation of Mankind and Society (BLOOMS) in 2011 at Katigram village in Manikganj Sadar upazila for children with disabilities.
After his demise on July 1, 2016, everyone was concerned about the fate of the institution.
Thanks to AC Rabiul’s family members, specially, his wife Umme Salma and younger brother Shamsuzzaman Shams, this philanthropic organisation is still running and its students have increased from 36 to 44 in the last three years.
In June this year, the school managing committee erected a one storied building with a classroom, an exercise and playroom, and an office room with donations from a Non-Government Organisation (NGO).
President of the 15-member committee GR Shawkat Ali said they registered the institution as a non-profit, charity with the Social Welfare Ministry on July 16, 2016.
Since 2017, they have started providing midday meal, he added.
“About Tk 70,000 is required per month to run the school now,” he stated, adding that the fund mostly comes from financial donation from well-wishers.
The school recently purchased educational materials, classroom furniture and equipment needed for therapy of the students with physical disabilities with Tk 5 lakh donation from the Prime Minister’s Office, informed Rabiul’s younger brother Shamsuzzaman Shams.
He related Rabiul’s dream about the school that the visionary man had built on 21 decimals of land donated by their mother.
“My brother wanted to build an on-campus residential building for the students, a hospital and an old-home,” he reminisced.
“However, we are now struggling to hire and pay teachers and staff required to run the organisation,” he said.
Currently, BLOOMS has two teachers, a physiotherapist, a cook and an accountant, informed Jahangir Alam, the school’s administrative director and also head teacher.
“The two teachers are trained in sign language and one of them is also a speech therapist,” he added.
Out of the 44 students, aged between five and 20 years, 23 are female and 21 male, stated the head teacher, adding that majority of the students have hearing and speech impairment.
One of the teachers, Shamima Nasreen Shaon, told this correspondent last Wednesday during a visit, that she works in BLOOMS to make Rabiul’s dream come true.
“I am happy that I can work for the disadvantaged children of the society. I don’t bother about the pay,” she said.
Physiotherapist Arabinda Sarker said, “I try my best to help the children amid all the limitations of the school, in terms of facilities.”
Five-year-old Rakib’s mother Aleya Begum of neighbouring Keshti village is very happy with the progress of her physically-challenged son at BLOOMS.
“The treatment my son gets here for free would have costs thousands of taka elsewhere,” she said.
“In addition, he is learning how to read and write with dignity and fun,” said the happy mother.
The school runs four days a week from 9:00am to 2:00pm and students are taught personal hygiene and etiquette along with alphabets, numbers, song and rhymes, said Jahangir.
“The ratio of specially trained teachers to students should be 1:5 but we cannot maintain this ratio because of financial constraints,” he explained.
Shamsuzzaman said the agricultural project Rabiul had started on his uncle’s land to fund the school and make it sustainable is currently running in a small scale. The money generated by the project is not enough to cover the expenses of the school, he added.
To add to their problem, the one kilometre mud road that leads to the institution is also in a bad shape and needs repair.
“It becomes difficult to bring the children with disabilities on the school van using this road,” he noted, hoping the authorities will take care of the issue.
Both Shamsuzzaman and Rabiul’s wife Umme Salma feels that the government needs to step in to secure the school’s future.
Thanking the PM for giving her the job of administrative officer at Jahangirnagar University (JU), the mother of two children, expressed her thoughts about the issue.
“My husband sacrificed his life for the country. It is the government’s responsibility to keep his dream alive. If the government does not take responsibility then it will not be possible to keep BLOOMS going,” she said.
“I love the children of the school the same way I love my son Sajidul Karim Sami, 8, and daughter Kamrun Nahar Rayna, 3. If God is willing, I will overcome all obstacles to protect my husband’s dream for the rest of my life,” she added.
Umme Salma lives with her two children and Rabiul’s mother Karimun Nessa at JU campus.
AC Rabiul was Karimun and late Abdul Malek’s elder son. Upon passing the 30th BCS examinations after completing his Master’s in Bangla literature from JU, he joined the police service.
At heart, Rabiul was a social worker. Besides, BLOOMS, in 2007, he also established a kindergarten in his village, the Kabi Nazrul Bidyasiri, fulfilling a dream of his late father.