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Changing roles

Last February, Irish journalist Fintan O'Toole commented on how about how Concern’s focus in Bangladesh has evolved in recent times. “Concern is no longer in the business of simply giving the poor something."

It is helping them, in a society where they are largely invisible, to be something,” he wrote. This is very much in line with Concern’s work with schools in Shariatpur, Bangladesh. 

Jakir Hossain, from the management committee of a school in the area, told us about the change. "At the beginning of this project our focus was on the state of the facilities of the school – if the roof was leaking, the need for more classrooms, more benches and so on. Now we are also aware of other issues that affect the children", he said.

Concern is campaigning at all levels to change attitudes, practices and policies towards education in the area. Women and poor people are beginning to have much more influence in the schools. Groups of the poorest parents and children participate in monitoring and evaluating their schools. Concern is also working to help the poorest children who find it difficult to keep up with their lessons.

Talking to Concern, an extremely poor mother at Charfiiz School said: "I am looking forward to the next open school activity. I want my husband to come too, so that he can learn all about what happens in school and how important it is for our son to go to school every day."

Another important part of this work is making sure the teachers are given support. Concern is recruiting volunteer mothers and youth members to help teachers by making teaching aids (games, flash cards, etc). Abdul Mannan, a member of a school management committee said "The teachers know we are there to help the children. Even the teachers ask me to visit and request my feedback".

Alamgir Miah is an example of a teacher who, with assistance from Concern, has managed to make huge improvements in his school. 

Concern's work with schools in Bangladesh is intricately linked with its other projects in the country. If a child is unable to attend school, the reason may be due to some wider problem. As such, ensuring that children are well-nourished, or that families can back on their feet after a natural disaster, is crucial.