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Small Wonder

  • Published at 06:12 pm May 24th, 2018
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Spreeha Foundation celebrates a small success

In our continuous search for stories of success, we sometimes overlook the everyday miracles that happen right before our eyes; this is one such story. The story of a girl who refused to give up and pursue all that came before her with undying courage. 

“I truly believe that if you stand strong in the face of adversity and have faith in your dream, nothing can stop you”, shares 22-year old Shabnaz Akter as she speaks to Dhaka Tribune regarding her incredible journey towards the pursuit of education. 

In Bangladesh, the total drop-out rate of boys and girls in the year 2017 was 37.81 percent. Breaking the figure down, the individual rate of girls dropping out was 41.52 percent and for boys it was 33.43 percent. Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (BANBEIS) disclosed the information of its draft report on ‘Bangladesh Education Statistics 2017,’ bringing to light the true scenario of how many students actually make it till university. It needs to be stressed that within this 37.81 percent are thousands of bright minds unable to push through for an education for economic and social reasons, left marginalized and socially excluded. 

Shabnaz could have been one of those thousands had it not been for her relentless determination and support from those around her. “I am truly grateful that I am almost done with university and can build my career now,” she expresses with a smile. Shabnaz currently lives with her mother who works at a non-government organization as part of the kitchen staff. 

When only three months old, Shabnaz’s father passed away leaving her mother dependent on her brothers for the livelihood of the family even though her brothers themselves were not financially solvent. When Shabnaz was four, she was admitted to school and studied till class five for free under the government’s support. Her daily expenses were paid for with the support of her uncle but a few months before her final exams, he finally announced that she had to work in a garments factory to provide for herself and her education from class six. 

“I always dreamt of being highly educated so that I could care for my mother. She has always worked so hard for us even though she is sick! I cried for hours that day when my uncle said he would not support us anymore and wished I had my father, who I feel would have allowed me to study further,” says Shabnaz as she further explains how she reached out to her neighbours for assistance after receiving the dreadful news. “I was lucky to have had a neighbour though who explained that I could go to a certain school that would provide a scholarship if I could manage a good result in the Class five finals. I was really worried as I had no preparation for the exams, but I knew that I had no other option since I needed the scholarship. I got admitted to the school two months before the finals and resolved to give it my all.”

Knowing that this was the only chance she had at an education, Shabnaz toiled day and night completing all her lessons without support from the usual presence of a coaching centre. “I may not have been able to afford the coaching then but I made up for it by studying through all the books up to three times myself”. Her hard work had paid off as she successfully stood second in the entire school that year. 

Shabnaz’s academic consistency helped her receive small scholarships from the school, assisting her till class 12. To pay for the family’s expenses, Shabnaz also worked as a tutor for five students. She would return from classes by late afternoon and teach her students till 9 or 10pm, depending on their lessons. 

“While tutoring helped me through to class 12, it was not enough for university. Hearing of how expensive university would be for me, I had almost decided I would stop studying yet again. Luckily, I came across an organization named Spreeha Bangladesh which provides health, education and training to communities. One of Spreeha’s community officers of the Rayer Bazar area informed me of a teaching position at their after school and I was also informed of my eligibility for the Spreeha scholarship given to support higher education. I applied immediately and was blessed to have been selected. With this job, I have been able to support my family as well as continue studying.”

Shabnaz had initially applied for the evening course at her university to balance work and education but for the consideration of her teachers, she was allowed admission to the general program with an application enabling her to receive the more valuable degree. 

She had also started work at Spreeha Bangladesh as an after-school teacher but has recently been promoted to the post of a community officer. She was awarded with a scholarship by the organization to help her continue her classes at university and one day dreams of becoming an influential professor.    

“My life so far has been unpredictable but I consider myself extremely fortunate for meeting people who did not hesitate to help me when I needed support the most. I one day hope I can repay all the kindness I have received throughout; kindness without which I would not have been able to make it this far,” she says. With her journey of courage, Shabnaz truly stands as a role model for her community and peers.