BEP has brought primary school education to children in seasonally submerged areas by introducing boat schools, which pick up teachers and registered students from the nearest hati (settlements on tiny islands) and drop them off to their homes after classes. BRAC has named this initiative ‘shikkha tari’ which literally means the boat of education.
Why is this intervention necessary?
Most of our boat schools are in the haor (wetland) areas of Sylhet region where during monsoon majority of the lands get completely submerged for six to seven months of the year. Economic deprivation and social inequalities due to geographical isolation keeps the children away from school and education.
Research conducted by Education Watch in collaboration with BRAC revealed that over one-fifth of the students do not have access to transport during dry season, which is doubled during wet season. According to the research statistics, 42 per cent of rural areas in Sylhet have no primary schools. The nearest formal school is often miles away. Parents are naturally reluctant to send their children, especially girls, to such distant locations. The children who do enrol in schools, which are far away, usually have irregular attendance when there is flooding. As a result of these difficult conditions, primary enrolment and literacy rates in this region lag far behind the national average. The literacy rate for children above seven is 40.7 per cent and for the adult population it is 44.4 per cent, as compared to national rates which are 48.5 per cent and 52.1 per cent respectively.
Children as well as teachers face trouble in reaching schools. Children need boat fair cost to attend schools which their parents cannot afford. Moreover lack of suitable premises and infrastructure in these areas contribute further to this problem.
The boat school initiative by BRAC is the product of a simple, yet powerful idea: if the children living in the haors cannot go to school, the school should go to them.
To ensure qualitative primary education for the isolated and most deprived children in low lying/haor areas.
- The one-teacher school is operated by the same teacher for the same cohort of children for a period of four years and delivers lessons in all subjects
- The school hours are flexible and are fixed according to needs
- Children do not have to pay any fees and there are no long holidays
- Little or no homework as most of their parents are unable to assist them
- Children with special needs receive corrective surgeries along with devices like wheelchairs, hearing aids, glasses and ramps
- BRAC develops textbooks and other materials for up to class 3 and government textbooks are being used in classes 4 and 5
- Each boat school has a book shelf
- There is a parents’ forum in every boat school where parents, teachers and BRAC staff meet for monthly discussions on issues like importance of regular attendance, health, personal hygiene, nutrition, parenting, old age treatment, preparedness for the coming school years, moral values, social awareness
Infrastructure of boat school
Boat schools are engine-operated. The boat is 42 feet in length, 10.5 feet in width and 6.2 feet by height. The body is made of steel with hardboard ceiling. It has 10 big windows (height 3 feet and width 2.7 feet each) for light and air circulation. There is a washroom with each boat school. Pure drinking water is supplied in each school. An appointed boatman takes care of the boat including ensuring cleanliness and hygiene.
452 boat schools (shikhha tari)