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The promise of OBAT’s Preschools

April 1, 2012

OBAT Helpers is dedicated to ensuring that underprivileged kids living in camps in Bangladesh combat illiteracy and inequality with education. With seven elementary schools already up and running, OBAT is now giving the younger population of the camps a chance to attend school like all other children their age. OBAT Helpers’ preschools prepare 4-6 year old children to pass the 1st grade entrance exam for government schools. These Bihari kids live in extreme poverty in slum like camps where there’s no concept of literacy. Their parents are illiterate and earn meager incomes. Continuing illiteracy will perpetuate their cycle of poverty and confine their children to earning minimum wages through back breaking labor. These children stay home with older siblings as their parents cannot afford to send them to school. Some older siblings work to supplement their family’s income. The kids are among the 300,000 destitute Biharis, forever marred by poverty and illiteracy. OBAT recognizes that education is the only tool that will serve as a barrier between them and a dismal future.

The Bihari’s were denied state education by the Government till the year 2000. Thus, over 95% of 300,000 Bihari’s are illiterate and only about 10% of their kids are in elementary schools. Due to ethnic discrimination, they cannot find jobs or be assimilated into mainstream society unless they can receive an education. By ensuring their admission into elementary schools, the preschools enable them to get that education; hence ultimately empowering them to move out of the desolate living conditions of the camps and to live free of poverty and with dignity, like the rest of the Bangladeshi citizens.

OBAT runs twenty preschool centers that are in need of funding to continue their operations. They have been opened in the following cities: Eight in Chittagong; six centers at Rangpur and six in Khulna. In collaboration with Humanity in Distress (HID), a local nonprofit in Bangladesh, a teachers training program was organized to train the teachers of the preschools. The total number of students enrolled in the program currently is 425.The preschools are a one year program during which 4-6 year olds are prepared to take the test to enter the elementary school system. They are provided all essential supplies, text and note books. They acquire basic literacy skills which enable them to clear the test for admission into an elementary school.

Instead of spending their days playing with marbles, close to perilous, open sewers, these little ones will now actually get to hold books in their hands. This will open new doors for them to gain an education at a very low cost and establish positive relationships at an early age.

Although these children sit on mats on the floor to study, they are happy to learn from the books that have been specially printed for them by OBAT. The preschools are a promise that could not be fulfilled for them by their impoverished parents or by the lackadaisical Government. Through these schools, OBAT is not only teaching the children basic hygiene and discipline; it is also laying the groundwork for making them champions of their own futures.

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