Excluded, ignored, underprivileged – whatever we say, it only leads to one meaning: being left behind. Even in the most hopeful time for our nation, when all children should have access to education and healthcare, there are many who have neither.
What are we doing for those who are excluded?
Save the Children in Bangladesh – along with its partners JAAGO Foundation and SHOUT – launched a programme titled 'Bridging the Gap', under its global campaign 'Every Last Child'. The campaign aims for student volunteers to visit underprivileged children in slums and remote areas in order to tell their stories by being a voice for the disadvantaged.
As part of the campaign, I had the chance to connect with children living in a slum to better understand their lives. This is the story of 13 year old Mohammad, from Jafrabad slum in Rayerbazar, Dhaka.
Mohammad wants to go back to his village in Habiganj. After the recent flooding of the haor areas of Sylhet division, his family moved to Dhaka in search of a better life. For almost 4 months, the family has been staying in the Jafrabad slum, the entire family in only one room. It was shocking to see how a family of 7-8 members could manage to live in a small room.
Despite his interest in reading and writing, Mohammad never had the chance to receive formal education. Perhaps, it wasn't feasible for his parents to send him to school when they had such a big family to feed. However, he attends the community school nearby to get a taste of basic education. But what about his formal education? Does this teenager not deserve it?
Mohammad wants to go back to his roots again. “I want to live where my parents and my siblings are, but going back to my village will be better for me,” he said when asked if he liked it here in Dhaka.
This is the story of one Mohammad. Like him, many children in Bangladesh do not have access to education, for several reasons. And their stories don't make it to newspapers. It's time that we, the fortunate ones, become their voice and bridge the gap.
Atika Khan is a student of Institute of Disaster Management and Vulnerability Studies, University of Dhaka.