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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 121 | May 31 , 2009|


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Banishing Illiteracy

Tanzina Rahman

FOR a country which has long struggled to attain the rights for mother language, it is demeaning to see that the nation still strives to develop its literacy rate. After 38 years of independence, more than half of the population of Bangladesh lacks behind to articulate Bengali. According to statistics, literacy rate among adults in Bangladesh is only 43 percent while 480,0000 individuals above the age of 15 are still uneducated.

“Needless to say, mass education is crucial for any nation. Instead of providing cheap labor, once education is widespread, we can initiate other platforms and work source that will indeed stand for the betterment of the nation,” said Prof. Anisur Rahman.

Enlightened by Prof. Rahman's proclamation, in 2008, a group of young individuals volunteered to take part in the 'national literacy movement'. The main objective of the programme was to disseminate primary level education to completely illiterate people throughout the country within a short period of time. Prof. Anisur Rahman, Dr. Badiul Alam Mojumdar, Prof. Ahsanul Haque, Anir Chowdhury, Laila Kabir, Syad Nasim Manjur, Tajima Hossain Majumdar and Naimumajumman Muktar worked hands in hands to spread the notion across the country.

The methods of the programme were simple. Individuals from 15 years and above were encouraged to take the course by buying a book specifically made for the course that cost only 10Tk. Prof. Ahsanul Haque designed an innovative book that consisted illustrations to define the words. The alphabets in the book indicated the words and the words indicated the illustrations and vice versa. Within two months time frame individuals were expected to learn these lessons.

High school and early college students took part in the 'national literacy movement' and started their journey in 22 centers. Last year, in Mymensingh district 63 individuals completed the course while in Kushtia 240 individuals from different villages participated and completed the course.

“I visited samples of the on-going literacy work in Kushtia last year, and was impressed by what I saw,” Prof. Rahmna said. “The first day I was at the Shilpakala Academy of Kushtia where 25 youth volunteers, both male and female were taking classes in their respective areas using the method of Professor Ahsanul Huq, and reported very good results. In general the learners are graduating to be able to read and write in about a month's time.”
Yet there were several challenges that the programme faced.

Volunteers expressed concern about retaining the interest of the learners. Newspapers and books are unavailable in remote villages and thus it is difficult to sustain their interest.

On the other hand, men tend to be less interested to attain education compared to women. After long day of hard work, men would prefer watching television (which has become a major source of entertainment) over going for classes. Another concern was the mindset of the villagers, those who are willing to sacrifice their entertainment for learning are often discouraged by others who would deride them by asking illogical questions that they are not being taught in schools.

“Interest among women is widespread though. Compare to men, they are eager to come to the institutions and cultivate their new learning,” said Md. Tohurul Hasan who has been managing the programme across the country.

Despite of the constraints, 'national literacy movement' thrives as it spread across 26 centers this year. “Our goal is to see how much the students have grasped the teaching within two months time frame,” he added. The high illiteracy rate is what impedes our nation to progress. And it is about time that one takes the initiative to implement such programmes like this that is highly beneficial for the nation.

BYLC: Helping you become a
leader for your community

Azhar Chowdhury

“I have a dream.''
''That one day, my four children will live in a nation where they are not judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Martin Luther King's words still echo in the hearts, most resonantly in those whose lives were changed by his leadership. Many others drew inspiration from his life, and the lives of many other leaders, to take the initiative to change their communities.

Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC) is a registered non-profit organization in Bangladesh that focuses on building compassionate and competent leaders. Its concept and curriculum was developed at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in January 2008. BYLC's first month-long leadership program, Building Bridges through Leadership Training, won the 2008 Davis Peace Prize in the US, and was implemented in Chittagong by Ejaj Ahmad and Shammi Shawkat Quddus of MIT.

This summer you can be a part of an exciting month-long journey, which has various components. One of the unique aspects of this program is that, a total of 30 students will be selected competitively, equally from English-medium schools, Bangla-medium schools and Madrassas. Through this, program participants will not only learn about leadership but also get to interact with a diverse group and learn to think from different perspectives an important component of leadership.

The leadership sessions will be conducted by BYLC founder Ejaj Ahmad.He will be assisted by leadership facilitators from Dhaka University's IBA and Department of Economics. Two experienced trainers from BRAC University's Institute of Educational Development will also work as leadership facilitators for the program.

The final component of the program is community service. After learning invaluable concepts of leadership, it is important to go into action right away. Leadership is as much about knowledge as it is about practice. In last year's program that took place in Chittagong, students spent 670 hours in 'Kusumbag' slum where they went door to door to interact with the people and learn about the various problems that they had. They then developed and implemented creative projects that were sustainable and would benefit the community in the long run.

After the resounding success of last year's program in Chittagong, this year the thrilling opportunity is open for the first time in Dhaka this summer. All students who have completed class 10, 11 and 12 from any educational medium are eligible to apply. The program will take place from 19 June to 23 July 2009 at BIAM Foundation. Selected participants will be required to attend the after school program six days a week for the entire duration of the program.

This is a highly competitive program, where selected participants will receive full scholarship from the U.S. Embassy. At the end of the program, students will receive the prestigious graduation certificate from BYLC and will have a life-changing experience for their future. Application deadline is Thursday 4th June 2009 and you can download the application at:


We are living in a time when our country needs us to step up. All around us there are opportunities to bring about change for the better. If you think you can step up and be at the forefront, come forward and apply you might just be the leader that your community is looking for!

(BBA 16th Batch, IBA)

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