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A story of Rita Rani Dey and
the life she can’t wait to see again

 

If you travel 240 kilometres north east of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, you will end up in Akhalia. The road to get there is long, winding and tree-lined.

It takes four hours, but the time goes fast. The region is blanketed by miles of lush, green tea tree hills.

The city centre is chaotic, but just outside it stands a small, quiet compound of three conjoined houses. One of these belong to Rita Rani Dey, a BRAC school teacher.

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Every day, Rita wakes up at 7:00 am, excited to get to her classroom.

She starts by cleaning the house, to make sure everything is in place for when her children and her husband wakes up.

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She gets out the big jar of sugar cane molasses and makes a cup of morning tea for everyone.

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Tirtho, her son, starts his day with a snaan - a shower from his mother. He is her youngest child, and still young enough to enjoy this. This splashing and laughing each morning is a precious time between mother and son.

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Rita and Tirtho’s laughing wakes up Mou, Rakhi, and Partho from next door. Rakhi is Rita's neighbour's daughter, but she pampers her no less than Tirtho. In the small compound, childcare is a shared activity.

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The morning hasn’t started properly till Rita spends 10 minutes praying for her family’s good physical and mental health.

Rita packs the day’s teaching materials while Tirtho plays with Mou and Rakhi.

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By 8.00am, everyone is dressed and breakfast is eaten. The teacher and her student are ready to leave for school.

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She locks the door and they walk out. It will take 10 minutes for them to reach the school.

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Rita is well-known for giving advice in the community, particularly about personal problems. A master at multitasking, she counsels three people during the 10 minutes it takes to get to school.

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The children are early. They haven’t seen their classmates in a long time. It’s the beginning of a new school year.

The students sit in front of their class materials. Each student is provided with a ruler, books, an eraser, a set of sticks for mathematics and a pencil.

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They start the class with an assembly, and then some physical activities to get ready to learn.

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Rita asks one of the students, Sadia, to lead physical activities. Sadia does a remarkable job, and everyone is ready to open their books.

Rita gives guidance at the beginning of each topic and then individually works with each student, including Tirtho.

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It is now midday. The children are seated in a U-shape again, this time for Bangla reading class. They change into different seating arrangements for different activities.

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Tirtho pulls some boroi (jujubes) out of his pocket and shares them with his friends for a quick treat.

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The students move into groups to work on projects, with the higher-achieving students supporting the other students. The rest of the day is peaceful, as the students question and discuss topics.

The first class of the school year is over. Everyone is hopeful and happy.

Rita ends the day surrounded by the students - her children. Learning together for four years creates a bond that transcends the traditional teacher-student relationship, one that often continues after students graduate.

The students clean their classroom and head out. They can’t wait to tell their families about the lessons they’ve learned and the boroi they’ve eaten.

Rita and Tirtho are the last to leave, as they get the classroom ready for the next day.

A teacher’s job is a lot of work, but it’s a job Rita loves - and a life she can’t wait to see again.