Reaching the Hard-to-Reach: Supporting Urban Slum Children
I’ve spent hours and hours on the road, and here in Bangladesh traffic is particularly challenging, so when I was going to be covering a project inside the capital city (Dhaka), I was excited about a short journey.
I realised that you don’t need to be on a local bus for 6 hours to feel like you’ve been transported to another world. In 1 hours of driving in heavy traffic, I was transported to a place very different than the “city” I was seeing day in and day out – the slum areas of Dhaka.
Urban Slum Children
In most cases “hard to reach” means that accessibility is a tangible challenge like roads are difficult (if present at all). But this is a slightly different kind of “hard to reach” where other barriers such as poverty keep them from the same opportunities as others.
According to Save the Children, there are approximately 4 million working children. These young people are forced into working and as a consequence are not able to attend school.
The project SUSTAIN (Support Urban Slum Children to Access Inclusive Non-Formal Education) aims to provide basic education for children in these areas. There are about 3,000 slums in Dhaka city and as I was able to see, living conditions are challenging.
A New Model for Learning
I was touched to learn about an accelerated model for learning was developed for these children and young people. Since most are already engaged in the labour market, this catered study cycle allows for flexible timing and shorting the completion period. Instead of the 5 years, it takes to complete primary school, the student who goes through SUSTAIN aim to finish in 3 years
The girls share with me their hopes for the future – all of them want more education. It’s inspiring to see these young girls strive towards fulfilling their studies.
The goal of the project was to children through the SUSTAIN programme and for there to be a transition into the formal school system. The idea is that the SUSTAIN is a bridge of sorts – connecting the children past and ensuring a better future with education.
Not only is the formal education system (education from the government) encouraged, but in addition, vocational training is encouraged.
Seeing children and young people being empowered to fight for their education and believe in a better future is simply incredible. These young women will continue to go through many challenges and struggles that arise from slum dwelling, but I hope their hearts remain full of positivity and kindness.