In a flood-prone village, a girl dreams to engage every villager in protecting the river
Mohammed Rezwan, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha Founder
This is a story from our Ocean Challenge partner Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha. Your participation in the Ocean Challenge has helped to support their work!
Jannatul is a young girl living in a small farming village along the Gumani river in Pabna. Every year the monsoon flood comes, and Jannatul and her family go through hard times. They cannot grow crops on the flooded lands, and there's no more money to buy food. They have to live in their home surrounded by water.
For rural children, the rising water means that going to school is too difficult – roads to school gets flooded and crossing the river and canal are too risky. From July to October, the rivers can be up to 12 feet higher or more.
Jannatul studied on a floating school of Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a non-profit organization in Bangladesh. “I liked our school. I learned there how to read and write,” she said. “I liked studying on a boat. It used to come to us when there was too much water here”.
She is sixteen years old now, although she enjoys spending time with friends, she prefers life in the village when there is less water. At that time, they start rebuilding their home. She helps her parents to increase home’s plinth by adding more mud so that the next flood does not enter into their home.
Going to the floating school was not easy for her at the beginning. While her mother was supportive, her traditional-minded father was not. Jannatul wanted to learn how to read, but her father thought that studying at a distant school was a waste of time and not safe during the flooding, she should stay at home. The floating school delivered education at their doorsteps, which allayed the concerns of her father.
Two months ago, Jannatul became a member of the river reporter’s group in her village. She and her friends received training on river protection and water quality monitoring and biodiversity conservation. They received these training on a newly built two-tier floating playground. Architect Mohammed Rezwan designed this boat, and Shidhulai built it with the financial support from the Student Rebuild. The play-boat has an on-board playground (for children), a learning center, training space, and an observation deck. The boat is solar powered. It allows the class to use a blended approach of face-to-face and technology integrated learning.
The country has an extensive network of rivers, but due to the pollution the rivers have reached alarming levels and the aquatic ecosystems are being affected. The play-boat has trained hundreds of youth on the importance and protection of the river, and now they are involved in cleaning up the river and monitoring its water quality.
“Through courtyard meetings, we teach our villagers about the relationship between river and economy. Now our farmers know about ‘no use of pesticides in the fields’, and we started tree plantation along the riverbanks”, Jannatul said. “I want to inform and engage every villager about protecting our river. If we can save our rivers, our ocean will be saved. ”