What was your inspiration behind starting SDI Academy?
I migrated to Singapore when I was a sixth-grader. In a new country, I struggled a lot with my English initially. Despite studying at a prestigious school in Bangladesh, language was a barrier for me when I came to Singapore, and it impacted me deeply.
Over the years, as I started interacting with migrant workers, I learned more about their struggles. I soon understood that learning English can solve a lot of their problems with understanding safety instructions and consulting doctors, among other things. I started teaching English to five to six people on a park bench. Gradually, the numbers started growing.
What teaching methods did you follow?
As I went through the same problems as my students, I customised the lessons myself at first. I spent eight months designing the curriculum and the syllabus.
Learning English is not about the quality of education, it's about the way it is taught. So, I focused more on the methodology.
After the park bench proved inadequate for the growing number of students, I first started with 134 students at a community centre. In 2013, I finally established SDI Academy.
What are the main objectives of SDI Academy?
SDI stands for Social Development Initiative. The idea is to not just teach English. It is about creating a pathway for migrant workers.
We are working towards creating safer and more productive workplaces by providing communication, IT, financial literacy entrepreneurship training to them.
We currently have 18 part-time trainers and we teach Indian, Filipino and Chinese migrant workers.
How did SDI Academy combat the pandemic and what new initiatives did you take?
Initially, we provided necessary food packages and other essentials to the migrant workers. Then, we started teaching them online. 10,000 migrant workers enrolled for the course during the pandemic, surpassing the 8,500 trained physically at the academy previously.
We launched an app with a mental health module, live classes, quizzes, and a COVID-19 advisory option.
What is your take on the growing entrepreneurship sector in Bangladesh?
Bangladesh is home to many amazing startups, and Bangladeshis are now willing to take more risks. Our biggest strength is our youth population. If they have the right ideas and successfully execute them, there will be more opportunities.
What are your future plans?
We plan to build a one-stop platform for migrant workers for education, entertainment, financial advising, and long-term career plans. We want to work with governments in Qatar, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and other countries with migrant populations. Our goal is to impact one million migrant workers over the next five years.
The author is a night owl who likes binge-watching, reading, and writing. Write to her at email@example.com.