Mahmuda, who gained a place at a slum school, wishes to help others living in the slums.
Living in the slums of Dhaka, Mahmuda’s life changed completely four years ago. Assisted by Fida’s campaign “Food for Life” Mahmuda gained entry to Fida’s slum school.
For a slum girl, growing up amidst the poverty, it was something she had not even dared to dream about. Like thousands of other slum children, Mahmuda was accustomed to the fact that the child’s lot was to work: to crush bricks, collect rubbish, what ever brought the family even a little money.
Mahmuda’s new life
Only half the children can read
- Dhaka is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. The enormous growth has created hundreds of slums on the outskirts of the city, which lack many basic necessities.
- There are up to 3.5-5 million people living in the slums.
- Over 40 per cent of them are younger than 15 years of age.
- Only slightly more than half of the 12-year-old slum children can read. It is significantly more difficult for the children living in the slums to attend school, and a large number of those starting school quit before the last grade of primary school.
- The slum school jointly funded by Fida and Hesburger was opened in Dhaka in 2011. There are now 400 children studying at the school.
Now Mahmuda has completed primary school and started on sixth grade. She has learned to read, write and do maths.
She has learned why you should keep food covered in the slum and how to care for her teeth. At school Mahmuda gets to eat proper meals regularly and the days pass quickly with her friends.
And if you ask Mahmuda, best of all is that in the morning she does not need to go to the large road crossing to wait for the pick-up that takes the workers to the building site for the day.
– I still help my mother with the housework after school, but when I was working, I was too tired to do anything at night. I have even made new friends at school, Mahmuda rejoices.
If Mahmuda had been able to start school at the age of six, she would be much further. At her age, she could already be at high school, in the tenth grade.
But it does not matter to Mahmuda.
Although a few years is not enough time see much change in the life in the slums, access to education has changed one young girl’s life, and in the best case scenario, her future.
At the moment, the opportunity to attend school is the most important thing.
– I like school and hope to be able to continue for a long time. I would not want to go back to work, Mahmuda says.
Schooling comes at a price
Thankfully Mahmuda may not have to return to work too soon. In January, Mahmuda started at a new school, not far from her old school.
She was able to get into the new school because of her good basic education from the slum school. If it is rare to just be able to enrol at school in the poverty of the slum, continuing education is like winning a lottery.
Almost half of the children starting school in Bangladesh will stop studying before reaching high school age. Many will never even start school.
Mahmuda’s family lives in a tiny brick building, and having their daughter attend school means that there is even less money for living.
The school itself does not cost anything, but Mahmuda is no longer working to earn income for her family. Now the family is surviving on less than 80 Euros each month.
Seven children are supported with that amount. It is spent on food and the most urgently needed clothing while hoping that nothing unexpected will happen. They cannot afford to get sick, because it costs too much to visit a doctor.
Five of Mahmuda’s siblings are working, but the youngest brother attends school during the day. The way out of poverty is hopelessly long, but schooling provides a small glimmer of hope. With education one may be able to get proper work.
For a girl living in the slums, even just being able to read, write and do maths will open up opportunities, but Mahmuda’s dreams do not stop there.
– I would like to study for however long it takes to become a teacher, Mahmuda states.
– Earlier, I wanted to be a doctor. When I started at the slum school and saw the teachers there, I decided that I wanted to do that, too. I would like to be a teacher and help people in the slums, Mahmuda says.