Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha
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2018: floating schools
Turning the tide on climate change with floating schools
Mosammat Rekha’s older cousins grew up unable to read and write, their tiny village so frequently cut off from the nearest school by floods that would rise suddenly in their remote corner of disaster-prone Bangladesh. But Mosammat, 7, is learning her ABCs aboard a boat fitted with a classroom that is helping children thrive even as climate change alters the world around them.
“We can attend classes even during the rainy season, when our homes are barely above water,” the sevenyear-old said aboard the vessel in Chalan Beel, some 175km northwest of Dhaka.
Climate change is already taking its toll across Bangladesh, a densely populated and impoverished country the United Nations has identified as among the most vulnerable to a warming planet. Twenty million people there could be made “climate refugees” by the end of the century, a UN panel has warned.
In Chalan Beel, floating schools chug along rivers and lakes swollen by floods. “Now, they have year-round education,” said Mohammad Rezwan, head of the Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha charity that runs the pioneering project. Today they run over 20 “floating schools” in the Chalan Beel area. Other charities have replicated the idea in different parts of Bangladesh.
Smaller models are equipped with desks, libraries and blackboards while more elaborate, twin-storey designs also boast slippery slides, monkey bars and swing sets for playtime. Children even learn to use laptop computers, all powered by banks of solar panels atop the boats. At night, once school is over, adults come aboard to learn new techniques for farming in an extreme climate.
Mosammat Jharna, a mother of two, beams at the floating school anchored near her home. “My dream of educating my children, including my daughter, has come true,” she said. “I don’t want to see them end up illiterate like me.”