Ferdousi: A torchbearer of education
Paschim Barua village used to be pervaded by some typical social ills -- superstition, child marriage, and child labour. A remote village of 20,000 people in Kulaghat union of Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila, it has now been transformed by education.
Villagers have built awareness against such social ills and on the importance of sending their children to school for learning.
All this has come about in the village, say locals, since the establishment of two educational institutions -- Paschim Barua Government Primary School and Paschim Barua Rotary High School.
While visiting the village from Lalmonirhat town around a decade ago, Ferdousi Begum, a poet and social worker, noticed children working in the fields rather than going to school. She then set up the schools there.
"We were not able to study before. Our children aren't literate but our grandchildren are now studying," said 97-year-old villager Moyez Uddin.
"This is good. I did not understand the importance of education before."
Though there are many wealthy villagers in Paschim Barua, they did not think about taking such an initiative for the rest of the villages as they sent their own children to town to study, said another villager, 98-year-old Subal Chandra Mohanta.
"Children of poor families grew up illiterate before. Now, the light of education has spread across the village where once these children used to work in the fields instead of reading books," he said.
Ferdousi works as an accountant in a private company and spends around 80 percent of her income in these philanthropic endeavours, which have been instrumental in bringing about social reform in Paschim Barua.
Ferdousi, 48, is daughter of late freedom fighter Ayet Ali Bhuiyan and late Hasnara Bhuiyan of Saptana road in Lalmonirhat town. Her husband, Matiar Rahman, is a noted lawyer in Zila Parishad area of the town.
"My husband inspires and supports me in my social work. As long as I live, I will continue working for the society," said Ferdousi.
The majority of the students in the schools are from relatively poor families in the village. Ferdousi also helps pay for clothing and other accessories the children need for school.
Ferdousi is not just working to educate children in Paschim Barua. Her social work also includes providing financial assistance and connecting homeless women and women freedom fighters with legal assistance.