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Meet Dhaka's kid from the slum with 100% US scholarship

  • Published at 08:40 pm July 31st, 2019
Siam Hossain speaks at a press meet held at the JAAGO Foundation headquarters in Dhaka on Wednesday, July 31, 2019 Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

'There was a time when I was not serious about my studies. However, after being admitted to the Jaago Foundation School, hopes of pursuing better and higher education emerged in my mind'

Md Billal Hossain, a caretaker in Dhaka's Rayerbazar, had never even dreamed of sending his son to the US for pursuing higher education. 

Living in a Rayerbazar slum, Billal is caretaker of several establishments belonging to three siblings at Rayerbazar, had always struggled to provide for his four-member family. His financial condition took a massive hit when he lost a job right after enrolling his only son Siam Hossain at the Rayerbazar school of JAAGO Foundation in 2008. 

Fortunately, Siam, now 16, rekindled his family’s hopes for a better life through his stellar academic performance. He achieved GPA-5 in the Primary Education Completion (PEC) examination in 2012, and registered an A grade from the science department at last year’s Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examinations.

In the latest addition to his academic achievements, the teenager managed to earn a two-year scholarship at the renowned United World College (UWC) in New Mexico, USA. Starting from the academic session 2019-20, the scholarship is worth $80,000.

UWC (or United World Colleges) is a global educational movement with the mission to "make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future". UWC consists of 18 schools and colleges on four continents, several short educational programmes, and national committees in 159 countries and territories worldwide.

The one in New Mexico is one of them.

Most of these18 schools and colleges exclusively offer two-year residential programmes, for young people aged 16–19 years, during which they complete the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme.

Siam’s story was revealed during a press meet held at the JAAGO Foundation headquarters in Dhaka on Wednesday. Siam’s parents, sponsors, and JAAGO Foundation high officials, including founder Korvi Rakshand Dhrubo, were among those in attendance.

“There was a time when I was not serious about my studies. However, after being admitted to the Jaago Foundation School, hopes of pursuing better and higher education emerged in my mind,” Siam said.

Thanking his sponsors, Siam recalled how there was a time when he may have had no choice but to stop studying due to the financial hardships of his family.

He also mentioned how his ambitions grew after seeing his results in the PEC exam.

Sharmin Ahmed, Jaago Foundation senior committee officer in Rayerbazar, said Siam had also shown brilliant performance in cultural activities, as well as debate and sports competitions.

Siam’s dreams

Expressing his gratitude to his sponsors and the JAAGO Foundation, Siam said he wants to become either a doctor or a communication specialist.

Expressing his commitment to serving the country and its people, Siam said: “Upon completing my two-year course at the UWC, I would like to pursue higher education at a foreign university before returning home to serve the people.”

The sponsors who made it possible

Bangladeshi expatriate in the US Ishraq Shabib and local doctor Farhana Rashid Shumi jointly sponsored Siam’s education. 

Ishraq has been funding Siam ever since the latter was admitted to the JAAGO Foundation school, while Shumi began to contribute when Siam was in the 10th grade.

Road to the US

A total 127 underprivileged students in Bangladesh, including four from the Jaago Foundation school, applied for the scholarship at UWC for the academic session 2019-20. 

Among them, 30 including Siam were selected for the scholarship. Qatar Airways will bear Siam’s air travel costs, and he is supposed to fly for the US in mid-August. 

At on Wednesday’s event, Siam was handed a dummy ticket by an official of the airline’s Bangladesh office.

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