One of the very first interventions in the project area Huzurikanda was the construction and the development of the Mati School since 1999.
Now it is time for us to look back with pride to the hardship of those first years, when Mati employees had to go from hut to hut to convince sceptical parents that their children’s future is on the way to school, even for the girls. After 10 years this fact is not being questioned anymore and many parents have developed a great interest in the education of their children and hope that they at least finish class 10 with a certificate. This change in the parents’ mentality can be credited to the continuous effort, care, and motivation the Mati teachers displayed both towards their students and in the relationships they built with the parents.
Nevertheless, going to school remains wishful thinking for many children from poor households. With an average family income of 3000 Taka (ca. 30 Euros), school costs of at least 400 Taka (4 Euros) per child each month are just not an option. Many rural households are dependent on the monetary contribution of children to the household income in order to survive. When resources are scarce, a family cannot say “no” to the additional 500 Tk monthly a working child can contribute. A girl that is married off with 14 or earlier is one person less living off the restricted family income. For very poor families the choice is unfortunately often a predictable one. One could even say there is not much of a choice for them.
95% of students from poor backgrounds drop out of school without graduating. Like Momotaz, 15 years old from Huzurikanda, who had to leave school last summer to work in Dhaka in a garments factory. She works long shifts of 12 hrs and more in order to be able to send some money home and support her family. Or Munjura, 14 years old, whose parents arranged her marriage, because with shortterm needs they could not see the longterm benefit of education.
To make education affordable for poor families like Momotaz’ and Munjura’s, the Mati School is free of charge. The children get their uniform, books and other materials through the school. As many of the children come to school without breakfast, they cannot concentrate well in the lessons. Especially during the hot and humid summers, children often faint out of weakness. So, with the help of three generous persons, we arranged an in-school-lunch where each child gets a healthy, nutritious meal every day. Most of the children agree that this is the best part about going to school…and attendance figures increased noticeably!
Additionally the school has a very good reputation in the region due to the different facilities it offers for the students. The teachers, who really take an interest in them, receive regular methodological trainings to improve their teaching methods for the benefit of their students.
In 2013, 278 students visited the Mati School. They spread out into class 1-7 and one playgroup and are tought by 10 – 12 teachers, many of whom come from poor family backgrounds as well and can understand the needs of their students. After class 7 the students change to the local high schools. If the risk runs high that they cannot afford the costs there, we arrange scholarships for them, to prevent their dropping out. The MATI School is financed through private donations and support from our partner organisation Mati e.V., as well as Stiftung Brücke, HelfensWERT e.V. and the initiative of several partner schools in Germany . The financial requirement of the school is around 15.000 Euros per year.
Class 5 again received the best results in the area
As a non-formal school, students of class 5 have to sit central government examinations to prove that they have mastered the same curriculum as students of public schools. Since several years the Mati students always come top of the list of all participating schools (several hundred regional Primary Schools).
Their teachers dedicate part of their free time to arrange extra tuition for the concerned classes. They share the pride of their students in being excellent, even though they are poor. This is part of our inclusive education philosphy. We do not want our teachers to focus on the brightest students, but invest time and care into every student. In the past five years every class 5 student passed the external examinations which mark the end of primary schooling in Bangladesh.
School Farm Project – the attempt to achieve greater sustainability
The lack of financial security for the Mati School has given us headaches for quite a while. Up to now the school has been totally dependent on private donations and contributions of a few small foundations.
However, every year we were wondering if we could possibly raise enough funds to continue the school at the same standard. In our “Kitchen Garden Project” we had made very good experiences with small-scale cow farming. Cows were raised, they multiplied, and we could sell the offspring as well as milk. Thus with the assistance of Stiftung Brücke and HelfensWert e.V. we bought eight cows and a big flock of chickens, which will now help earning a steady income for the school. Additionally we established a tree nursery for selling saplings.
The “One Percent for Development Fund” in Rome also helped us to further develop this project of income generation for the school. With their help we could buy a large plot of farmland opposite of the school, which is now being farmed by students’ parents on a shared profit basis. Thus we hope to cover 20-30% of the annual costs in the long run.