Chittagong Hill Tracts: Children Receive Free Education
The tribal children who live in Bangladesh's remote Chittagong Hill Tracts are receiving pre-school education due to the Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP) supported by United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Chittagong Hill Tracts, situated in southeastern Bangladesh and sparsely populated with about half of the population being indigenous tribal people, consists of three districts which are Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachari.
In a recent site visit to Kamaku Chara Pre-School-3 in Kamaku Chara village in Dighinala Sub-district of Khagrachari district, Shahidul Islam, deputy project coordinator of ICDP in Dighinala Sub-district told Xinhua Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board which is under the Bangladeshi government initiated the project in Chittagong Hill Tracts in 1982 with the support of UNICEF.
Islam said so far there are 135 pre-schools in Dighinala Sub-district with 2,474 children.
"Almost all the tribal villages in the sub-district are covered by the project," he said.
Islam said the purpose of project is to get the tribal children ready for formal primary school.
"The tribal children speak their own language. They can't speak Bangla, the national language. If they go directly to formal primary schools which are teaching with Bangla, it will be difficult for them to get used to the study there. So pre-school education will be a very important step for these children to go to primary schools," he said.
"Before we started the project. There was no pre-school in Chittagong Hill Tracts. So the drop-out rate for the tribal children in primary schools was high. Now with the promotion of pre-school education, the drop-out rate has been greatly reduced," he added.
Ranga Prav Chakma is the only teacher in Kamaku Chara Pre-School-3 which has 19 children between 3-6 years old. She teaches the children drawing, singing, counting numbers, health knowledge and Bangla letters.
There are three pre-schools in Kamaku Chara village which has more than 100 tribal households.
"I came to teach in Kamaku Chara Pre-School-3 since it was established in 1998. The children are learning very well. Some of my students have very good performance in different primary schools. I am very proud of them," she said.
Ranga teaches two hours a day, six days a week. She said almost all the children come to school because they like it.
Kamaku Chara Pre-School-3 is a one-room structure constructed with bamboo and wood. The structure and the study material are al l provided by UNICEF.
Sunanda Chakma's daughter is learning in the pre-school. She told Xinhua her daughter likes the pre-school very much. "When hearing the school bell, my daughter asks me to take her to pre-school," she said.
Sunanda said the pre-school education is free for the tribal children. They don't pay anything for the pre-school.
"I like to send my daughter to the pre-school. She can learn something. I don't have to teach her at home," she said.
Besides providing the tribal children pre-school education, the Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board also takes care of the health of the tribal children, they send health workers to vaccine the children periodically.
Khagrachari has eight sub-districts with around 1,000 pre-schools under the UNICE-supported project.
Chittagong Hill Tracts is inhabited by at least 13 tribes, among them Chakma is the biggest regarding to population followed by Marma and Tripura.