It is common to see children going to school in the morning with heavy backpacks. But, such is not the case with students of Stemays, an English medium school in Sylhet city. The school has taken a different approach with its students. They do not have to carry bags filled with heavy textbooks. They do not even have to buy books. They enter the school with enthusiasm.
MAI Saadi, vice-principal of Stemays, Pre-K Elementary Middle and High School, said, "Our students do not have to carry heavy books every day. The books are kept in the school. The classwork is done on a sheet which is given to the students, and they do their homework on the same sheet and bring it back to school the next day."
Not only that, Stemays has taken another exceptional initiative. The school provides its students three meals a day. Breakfast is served in the morning before classes start. This is followed by a late-morning snack, and then by lunch at noon.
Social Worker Abdul Karim Kim's two children study at this school. He said, "I was attracted to the school because of its exceptional system. Students don't have to carry books, and they have their meals together."
On a visit to the school, our correspondent saw rows of small pots filled with soil in the corridor. The teachers of the school said the students will plant one seedling in each of the pots that week.
An expert will tell them about the benefits of planting trees, and how to take care of plants. The students will then take the pots home, and every three months they will inform the school about the condition of the plants.
The classrooms have been aesthetically decorated with books and sports equipment. If a student is tired of studying, there is a bed in the classroom to rest on.
The school has science and technology laboratories where students dismantle machinery or make new things.
Mahbub Sunnah, a software engineer, founded the school in the city's Housing Estate area in 2018.
Mahbub said, "When I used to live in Bangladesh I dreamt of establishing a modern school in my country. However, I joined the teaching profession in England in 2005. When I was there I felt the urge of founding a modern school in Bangladesh even more intensely. Though I took an initiative of setting up a school in 2007, I could not do it because I moved to the US."
However, in 2012, he started the construction of the school building on his ancestors' land in Sylhet.
Stemays has 18 teachers in total and 65 students in each class. Students can get admitted to the school twice a year – in January and in July.
The school charges an admission fee of Tk27,000 and a tuition fee of Tk3,000 per month for pre-kindergarten to class three. For class 4 to 12, the tuition fee is Tk5,000.
"Though it is an English medium school, the school gives proper emphasis on Bangla. Students are introduced to the history of the homeland. The school also arranges tours to historically important sites on special occasions for students," said the vice principal.
"We want to provide students with a modern education at low cost. We give equal importance to co-curricular activities. Sports, physical exercise and tree plantation are regular activities at the school," he said.
"Most importantly, we try to ensure that all students learn their lessons with fun," Saadi said.
Amanul Arad Chowdhury, a student of class seven, said, "We enjoy studying in this school. We do not need private tuition."
Another student of class eight, Shefa Begum, said, "Besides our lessons, we also have our meals together here. We have become a family."