School must go on during monsoon season in Bangladesh. And for students living near the Atrai river, that means attending class on a boat.
Mohammed Rezwan, founder of the award-winning nonprofit Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, is using year-round floating schools to ensure floods don’t stop Bengali children from getting an education, NPR reports.
As one of the most flood-prone countries in the world, Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. Up to 70% of the South Asian country can end up submerged in water because a lot of its land is less than 16 feet above sea level. This leaves too many opportunities for children to miss class because they can’t get there.
Rezwan grew up in the region where his group has already set up 23 floating schools. His first floating school went up in 2002.
"It becomes very difficult to have the normal life," Renwan said about flooding periods in Bangladesh.
Mafya Begum, a floating school teacher, said areas affected by monsoon season get completely cut off from other civilization. Flooding is only one more inconvenience Bangladeshi teachers face. Lack of funding and overflowing classrooms don’t make their jobs any easier.
To overcome this, one local charity has decided to take the classrooms to the students in the form of schools on boats. This boat is one of 23 floating year-round schools in this part of #Bangladesh run by Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a local nonprofit group. pic.twitter.com/z6MO9smkfl— Suresh C (@SrshC) September 12, 2018
Some students near the Atrai river start their days waiting to get a ride from the school boat itself. It makes its rounds down the river to pick children up and then the cramped classroom docks for the day. The boat later shuttles students back home and then grabs another group for a second session in the afternoon.
Young girls benefit immensely from floating schools. Without them, their parents advise them to stay home and avoid dangerous commutes.
While Bangladesh is making social progress, and has cut its poverty rate significantly, rural communities can’t move forward without groups like Shidhulai. The nonprofit’s floating infrastructure doesn’t stop at education buildings, either. It also runs five floating medical clinics, and recently opened a playground that doubles as a library on the river. National and international Funding allows these resources to stay free.
As flooding becomes more common around the world due to climate change, we’ll probably see more floating buildings soon enough.