Translated by Shanjida Nahar Priya:
“They do not know how many wonders on earth are waiting for them. But they are afraid of Bengali Language. Do not enjoy studying. We want to give these children a way to look at these wonders. If we can teach them Bangla properly in the initial stage, they will themselves run behind their dreams.” These words are from Sonu Rani Das.
She is the first graduate of the sweeper colony of Tanbazar in Narayanganj. Talked to her in the house of the colony last Thursday. She said about her thoughts on why children of Harijan community are weak in education, what are the barriers to their progress and how to overcome them
She has been thinking about these for a long time. Besides talking about the crisis in the colony, Sonu also tells stories of her own life. She said, “ In Bangladesh, there is still a lot of struggle for a woman to get up. And it is more difficult for a child born in sweeper colony to study in a language different from them. Sonu and her two friends Mina and Puja are the first among the Harijans of Narayanganj who passed SSC.”
There is a primary school in this colony of 150 families since 1964. However, no one in the colony could cross the secondary level before 2006. According to Sonu, linguistic obstacles, family unconsciousness, and economic miseries are responsible for this. Sweepers’ mother tongue is Hindi but textbooks are in Bengali. Children drop out in the initial stage because of not understanding Bengali. As school teachers are from different languages and different cultures, studies do not become delightful for them.
Sonu said, “ After completing HSC, me and Mina (her friend) thought, we have to be a teacher.”
The desire of becoming a teacher is for teaching children Bengali.
What if you can not be a teacher?
Sonu frowned after hearing the question. She said,” If there is anything else to do then I would do that before. A job offer of NGOs has come speaking of a fat amount of salary. But what they give is not important to me. What I want to do is important. I want to work for my colony children. This is my responsibility towards my community.
In this conversation, her two eyes started to shine. She held her five years old son, Rudro sitting beside her.
After completing their primary level from Methorpotti Govt. Primary School, Sonu, and Mina got admitted in Rally Bagan Gono Bidyaniketan High School. Then After finishing their HSC from Narayanganj College, they started their graduation (B.Ss) in Govt. Tolaram College. They got married in their own colony.
Mina Rani lives in a rented house outside the colony with her husband and kids. Had a chat with her there. She said, “It seems inappropriate to introduce myself as a housewife. When we went to the outside school to study, many people made fun of it. They told our parents, what’s the point of educating a girl so much? At the end, they have to manage the households only. If our dreams are not fulfilled, their words will become true. If we do not touch our dreams, we will become a bad example for girls.”
She also said, “ If they (colony girls) want to study, their relatives will tell them pointing on us, what has been the point of studying so much, still dealing with the households only.”
Archana Rani, the Headmistress of Methorpotti Govt. Primary School thinks that, in the schools of the sweeper colony, people who have come from among the residents should be appointed as teachers. She said, “ Because of not understanding the language, 70 to 75 percent of the colonial students’ dropout in the initial stage. If the resident of the colony becomes a teacher, the obstacles of the language will be removed as well as the teacher’s understanding of the students will be intensified.”
Mujib Alam, the Assistant Primary Education Officer of Narayanganj District said, “ Colony children’s mother tongue is Hindi, a study in Bengali. As a result, there are little obstacles. We do not think much about the appointment of teachers from the colony. It’s a matter of making the decision nationally.
The Dalit Community in Bangladesh is one of the most deprived and marginalized community in socio-economic terms. Team Women Chapter extends heartiest congratulations to Sonu Rani and her friends for their hard work, determination and well-deserved achievement.
The column is reproduced from Daily Ittefaq, to Women Chapter’s Bengali website.
Shanjida Nahar Priya is currently pursuing MSc in Economics from Jahangirnagar University. She is passionate about reading books, exploring new things and collecting makeup stuff.