While having a discussion among themselves, a group of students from the Birshreshtha Munshi Abdur Rouf Public College (BMARPC) realised talking about topics like period, menstrual hygiene and sanitary napkins made many of them uncomfortable.
So they decided to do something to help break the taboos surrounding these topics. They partnered up with their institution's medical team to teach students about menstrual health. Further, they began to help other students who cannot afford sanitary napkins.
The group is also seeking help from educators and the United Nations to arrange a few sessions to help break this taboo so that not only young girls but also young boys, teachers and parents feel free to talk about menstrual health.
Moreover, they have received funding from a US based NGO called Peace First to turn their dream into reality.
All these were set into motion by an initiative called BeyondGrades designed to create an entrepreneurial mindset among local school students within the ages of 12 to 16 years.
BeyondGrades seeks to develop attitude, knowledge, hard and soft skills among students to help them become entrepreneurs when the time is right.
The hope is, with time, these young minds will be able to solve the pressing issues of Bangladesh through creativity, innovation, and leadership.
In fact, BeyondGrades started its journey in July 2021 with this group from BMARPC. In their inaugural cohort (batch), they had 30 students from 9th grade and 60% were female.
All these students were aged between 12 to 15 years old. Every week, students attend three online classes which are two hours long and there are a total of 22 classes.
These classes are facilitated by experienced entrepreneurs, educators, private and public sector practitioners from Bangladesh, Australia and the United States of America. Wahid Hossain is the programme director.
BeyondGrades completed two separate cohorts with BMARPC and St Joseph Higher Secondary School in the last seven months.
A total of 61 students have graduated and they have created 11 business ideas that include apps for health and fitness, employability education programs for rural women, banking solutions for teenagers and so on.
The curriculum is divided into three major disciplines – Transformative Growth Mindsets, Transformative Leadership and Transformational Entrepreneurship. Under.
Children are taught courses like Entrepreneurship 101, Problem Analysis, Know Your Customer, Stakeholder Analysis, Solution Design, Tech- Talk, Business Canvas Model, Financial Literacy, Financial Modelling, Pitch Training, etc.
Their approach is more participatory than they are based on lecture. Team building is another area of major focus.
"In our country there is no group work for students of classes 1 to 12, no group assignments, nor can they play together due to absence of open spaces," Wahid explained, adding, "children are becoming individualistic. As a result, fresh graduates are having a hard time working with others since they have always worked alone. We are focusing on this issue."
Wahid is not a full-time educator, he is also the CEO of Tigerbow. The idea of teaching children about entrepreneurship came while volunteering at one of his friend's ventures.
He helps his friend who is the owner of YY Goshti, a social business incubation programme, from time to time.
YY Goshti supports entrepreneurs and most of the entrepreneurs are aged 25 or above. As a volunteer, Wahid conducted a lot of sessions for them in places like Sylhet, Chattogram, Khulna and Dhaka.
"One thing I have seen is our entrepreneurs do not lack business skills like marketing or financial calculations. And even if there is some lacking, they can be somewhat managed. The major challenge is their mindset."
According to Wahid, when you are doing something like business, you will face some challenges. Every day, every month will not be the way you expect it to be, even in a job you will face some unexpected challenges.
You can lose your job due to recession, you might not get a raise and you might not get that promotion you were expecting.
The same can happen in a business: a deal might fall through, an investment may get cancelled, new laws passed by the government may hamper business, and competitors may enter the market.
Whenever these challenges arise, the majority of entrepreneurs quit. They do not want to fight.
"I am not saying if you have a problem, be stuck with it. Eventually you will have to move on. But you need to fight a little to see whether you can work it out or not," he added.
In most cases, people quit within three months of facing such challenges. Wahid observed this tendency is most prevalent among university graduates since they face pressure from their families. Older people also give up since they have families to take care of.
"The advantage of working with children is that they are mostly 12 years old and studying in class nine. We get seven years until they complete undergraduate studies. After completing this course they are getting a seven year window to experiment with their entrepreneurship ideas," Wahid shared with us.
He also explained by this time, if they fail, they can do something else or they can try something new.
"Nobody is financially dependent on them yet and when you are young you can generate more ideas. When we become adults we have certain inhibitions. But when we are young we say whatever comes to our mind," he said.
Wahid believes within hundreds of ideas, one can be a life changing one and children can generate ideas more easily. That is why they thought of working with children.
With a glint in his eyes, Wahid said, "Children will innovate, they will change and they will bring positive change for our country."