Banks come to the rescue of poor kids
Street children are progressively taking to the idea of keeping their hard-earned income in a bank, with the deposits in their accounts soaring more than 20 percent in the past year or so.
As of June, the accounts held by street children had balance of Tk 26.48 lakh, up from Tk 22.01 lakh a year earlier, according to data from the Bangladesh Bank.
The total number of accounts held by street children expanded 25.97 percent during the period to 4,365.
In 2014, Save the Children, the international non-governmental organisation that promotes children's rights, and the BB rolled out a bank account programme for street and working children under the central bank's financial inclusion drive.
The account needs to be opened under the guarantee of a non-governmental organisation and enjoys a good compound interest rate with an initial deposit of only Tk 10. Street children do not bear any fees for maintaining the accounts. Accountholders do not get the online banking facility and are not given debit cards.
“The NGOs take the overall responsibility for operating the accounts until the street children and child workers reach the age of 18,” said Md Abul Bashar, general manager of the financial inclusion department of the BB.
The interested banks and NGOs need to sign agreements to operate the accounts in line with the central bank directive.
The NGOs nominate at least two of their staff to take care of the financial inclusion programme. One of the nominated workers must come from the accounts department and the other from field-level operations.
Fourteen NGOs have so far tied up with banks to open bank accounts for street children.
The NGOs are: Uddipan, EBCR Project, Manab Seba Manabik O Samajik Unnayan Sangstha, Social Upliftment Foundation, Brac, Aparajeyo Bangladesh, Aid Bangladesh, Assistance for Slum Dwellers, Community Participation and Development, Shakti Vidyalaya, Sajida Foundation, Nari Maitree, Prodipan, and Poriborton.
Seventeen banks have signed up for the programme: Sonali, Janata, Rupali, Agrani, Krishi, Bangladesh Development, Bank Asia, Mercantile, Mutual Trust, National, Social Islami, ONE, Pubali, City, Trust, Al-Arafah Islami and Uttara.
Ghashful, a Chittagong-based NGO, has recently sought cooperation from the central bank so that it can open accounts for street children. The BB has already asked the concerned banks to extend their support to the NGOs so that street children in Chittagong city could be brought under the banking service, according to Bashar.
He said the central bank has recently taken some initiatives to give a boost to the programme and bring more street children under banking services.
Thanks to the savings habit it instils, the financial inclusion programme would help street children set themselves up for future, said Md Arfan Ali, managing director of Bank Asia.
“We have no intention to make a profit from the savings accounts of street children. We are supporting the children so they can enjoy banking service,” he added.
Shafiqul Alam, managing director of Jamuna Bank, said allowing street children to open bank accounts will hopefully lead to a higher level of social security and safety of their hard-earned money.