60% of the 15 million people living in Dhaka – Bangladesh’s capital – live in slum areas.
Most people living there are on or below the poverty line; they are deprived of all basic amenities such as safe drinking water, proper housing, drainage systems and healthcare services. The wide range of social problems includes domestic violence, early marriage and child labour.
Education is often very low on the priority list. In Bangladesh, dropout rates are among the highest in the world, and over 5 million children are still not receiving an education in the country. In the slums, only 58% of people over the age of 12 can read or write.
Since literacy in parents is a contributing factor to children school enrolment, the lack of education becomes a cycle. The largely illiterate adult population contributes to the fact that children in the slums are 2.5 times more likely to be excluded from school than the national average.
Without an education, it will be even harder for these young people to pull themselves out of poverty and gain access to more financially stable lives.
Considering the above scenario and the great need in urban areas, the non-governmental organization BRAC – the world's largest NGO – extended its school programme to slum areas. Their urban school project aims to ensure educational opportunities for underprivileged children in urban slums, free of charge. With this project, the children of the slums are finally beginning to receive the basic tools for success: an education.
In Korail, Dhaka's largest slum, over 50,000 residents pack into less than one square mile of land. These are the some of the most marginalized people in the country, and they have little social protection.
There, BRAC runs over 140 pre-primary and primary schools in the slum, thus giving thousands of children an opportunity to learn and to escape the cycle of poverty.
Life in the slums is not easy for children. They spend their days tending to younger siblings, gathering firewood to cook meals, or fetching potable water. Many are forced into menial jobs to help make ends meet for their families. Burdened with adult responsibilities at a young age, schooling often takes a back seat. BRAC schools are established in the slums so that they have a safe place for learning.
Poverty itself can limit society’s expectations of the child’s ability to perform well in school, constantly reminding them of the tiny chance they have to overcome adversity and poverty. In Bangladesh, BRAC has raised those expectations among the hardest-to-reach children.