21-Year-Old Youth Leader Opens School for Children in Slums
Meher Nazmun, known popularly as Tisha to her friends and family, is 21 years old and lives in Munshipara, Rangpur District in Bangladesh. As she walked to and from her college, Tisha was troubled at seeing children from the nearby slums on the streets and not enrolled in school. Tisha wanted to help these children go to school but, at the time, did not know how.
In 2010, she was trained as a youth leader by The Hunger Project (THP)-Bangladesh’s “Youth Ending Hunger” Program. Tisha then organized a “youth unit” in her area. With the help of her youth unit, Tisha initiated a new community intervention to improve school enrollment. She started teaching the children from the slums in an open-air school that she called “School Under the Sky” (pictured).
Though the local children responded well initially and attended regularly in large numbers, after a while attendance began to drop off. In Bangladesh, while primary education is technically free, many people living in poverty find the cost of school uniforms and books difficult to bear, leading to high drop-out rates. Committed to finding a way around this, Tisha and her unit spoke to the children’s parents and urged the importance and value of investing in the education of their children. But challenges remained. Despite the support of the community, the roofless School Under the Sky was forced to close on rainy days.
One day, Tisha arranged an arts program for her students and invited the Principal of her college to attend. He was so moved by what he saw that he offered to provide Tisha with a permanent room in which to conduct her classes. He also offered to negotiate with the local government’s primary school so that her students could be re-enrolled in a formal education program.
Empowered by her successes as an educator, Tisha has taken steps to improve her capacities. She recently visited Scotland as part of the bilateral exchange program under the British Council’s Active Citizens Project. As well as building her confidence and helping her gain the respect of her community, Tisha believes she has learned a lot in practical terms, such as having a plan and sticking to it. Her long-term aim is to eradicate illiteracy from Bangladesh. She is committed to do whatever it takes to achieve this aim because she strongly believes the standard of living would significantly improve if only all Bangladeshis were educated.