It is a typical classroom with almost 40 students – courteously doing their classwork on notebooks. Some students are heard repeating the lessons after the teacher. On one side of the room, a whiteboard carries the numbers from one to ten – written in Bengali and English. A bright classroom with colourful posters, handmade flowers, and stickers. The only way this setting stands out is that it is a whole school rather than just one classroom. And the school is on the move.
This Mobile Quality School, a moving bus, is an initiative of the HOPE'87 (Hundreds of Original Projects for Employment) – an Austrian non-profit organisation to spread the light of knowledge among the underprivileged children of the country.
The bus stops at different city points in Dhaka where underprivileged children reside in a large number. Remaining at each of these places for a two-and-a-half hour, paid teachers and volunteers teach several subjects to their needful pupils.
Eight-year-old Sabuj works in a filling station for 12 hours a day. From 8.00 am to 8.00 pm, his constant duty is to wipe the cars at the station. But at around 3.00 pm on a wintry day, Sabuj was seen preparing his handwriting task attentively – sitting on the mobile bus.
"I take a leave for one hour when the bus arrives. Sometimes it's difficult to manage this. But I love studying here," said the student of class two with a bright face.
His friend Bishal, who works in a furniture shop, also comes to the school taking an hour off in the same way.
Like them, 11 working children are studying in the school in different classes in the Kamrangir Char area. The mobile-school buzzed with the students' chatters, and it looked busy as they toiled with their day's lessons.
Children fighting poverty and deprived of education are always welcome to this school. Following the submission of an admission form and some other formalities, students are allocated to different classes according to their age. Those who study at other schools but cannot afford private coaching are also welcome.
Like any other school, this moving-school also starts with a regular assembly. Besides class lessons, there are arrangements for reading storybooks, playing indoor games and watching cartoons on TV. For recreation, the students are taken on a study tour every month.
Third-grader Onika said, "I wait eagerly every day for the school bus to arrive. I love studying here."
"This was an initiative of Nurul Islam BSc – former minister of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment. The project was run in Chattogram at first. In 2012, HOPE'87 took over. In 2018, HOPE'87 started a mobile school in Dhaka along with the previous one," said Md Mahfuzur Rahman, finance and admin, HOPE'87 Bangladesh.
The mobile school stops at different city points throughout the week following a fixed schedule. It stops at New Eskaton Road from 8.00 am to 11.00 am on Fridays and Sundays, at Mirpur 2 from 11.00 am to 1.30 pm on Thursdays and Saturdays.
The bus stops at Rayer Bazar from 11.00 am to 1.30 pm and at Kamrangir Char from 2.00 pm to 4.30 pm every day except Friday. At Munsibari, Jurain, the school bus stops on Saturdays and Thursdays from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm.
The driver of the bus, Abdul Rouf Shikder, also takes part in teaching the students at times. He talked of one difficulty on the path, "Most parents of these children are not concerned about their education. So when the students are being irregular, we have to go to their houses, sometimes even to their workplaces. It becomes tough for one or two teachers to maintain all this."
"Being funded by ZF Hilft and cosponsored by EU Foundation, we are running this mobile school to ensure education among the disadvantaged and deprived children in our society. We are committed to continuing the schooling on our own after the project ends in May 2020. We have plans to expand the mobile school services in the remote areas of the country," said Md Rezaul Karim, country manager of HOPE'87 in Dhaka.
At present, the school is being run by six paid teachers and six volunteers from different universities in the city. "Here the students are taught from playgroup to fifth grade according to the national curriculum. The books are managed from the education board every year for the students. Other education materials are arranged by the organisation," Md Mahfuzur Rahman told The Business Standard.
Almost 300 students are studying in this mobile school currently in different classes.