Building and Repairing 12 Floating Schools in Northwest Bangladesh

Project location: BANGLADESH
Project start date: July 2012 - Project end date: December 2015
Project number: 2012-072
Beneficiary: Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha


The aim of the project is to introduce solar powered floating schools to ensure the children's education year round even during the height of monsoon, and also to bring books, electricity and climate change adaptations in the flood-prone cut-off areas for better livelihoods and economic opportunities.
The objectives of the project are:
• To provide education at flood-prone areas year round with the availability of up-to-date curriculum, information and technology;
• To help families to adopt the climate change induced flooding, and also to provide lighting to dark villages.
The projects' school and library beneficiaries will be mostly children, adolescents and youth aged 6 to 25 years. The floating school will directly benefit 1,080 children aged 6-9 years. And 6,000 adolescents and youth aged 12 to 25 years will use the book library on the boats. The project also includes the parents, for example, 2,160 parents will be trained on child & women rights, nutrition, health & hygiene, sustainable farming, marketing system and climate change adaptations. The evening shows will reach 18,000 villagers.

The Nando Peretti Foundation has awarded a grant for this project. 

Bangladesh's woes - demography, geography and topography - have already made it the world's number one hotspot for disaster homelessness. According to the World Bank, from 1980 to 2000 more than 37 million Bangladeshis were made homeless by disasters (Gilbert, 2001). The country has the highest density of population in the world - about 948 people living per square kilometre of available land (UNFPA, 2010), more people live in Bangladesh than in all of Russia. Bangladesh is also one of the poorest countries on earth. Of its population of 162 million people, 49.8 % of the population lives below the poverty line (UNDP, 2004). About 49.6 % of population earns less than US $1.25 per day and 81.3 % population living under US $2 a day (Wikipedia, 2010).
Bangladesh is also one of the most low-lying coastal countries on earth. It is the lower riparian of three major river systems of South Asia, the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna (GBM), and constitutes about 7 per cent of the combined catchments area forming the largest delta in the world. Over 92 percent of the annual runoff generated in the GBM catchments area flows through the country, which is the third highest in the world, after the Amazon and the Congo River systems (MoEF, 2003). In the country 46 percent (75 million) live within ten meters above sea level (McGranahan, Anderson, 2007) and 33 percent (54 million) below five meters above sea level (Maplecroft, 2007). Therefore Bangladesh becomes one of the most flood-prone regions in the world. One third of the country floods annually during the monsoon season, but extreme floods cover up to two thirds (AFP, 2004). Climate change has increased the flooding recent years - the country had floods twice in 2007 and ten million people were affected. According to the Network for Information, Response and Preparedness Activities on Disaster, the 2007 floods saw 332 schools destroyed and 4,893 schools damaged.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), things will get worse in near future. Bangladesh will be squeezed from the south by cyclones and sea level rise, and flooded from the north by the major rivers swollen by warming glaciers in the Himalayas. Over the next 40 years, 17 percent of the land will be lost to the sea resulting 20 million climate refugees. The South Talpatti island has already disappeared beneath the Bay of Bengal due to the sea level rise (AFP, 2010).

River erosion claims more than 100 square kilometers of land each year, sometimes swallowing entire towns, and 100,000 people become homeless annually (PlanetPrepare, 2008). Now pressure on the land is so overwhelming that it leaves little choice for the poorest segment of the population but to move to remote, inaccessible riverside areas to settle. People living here are disadvantaged due to lack of access to education, training and production knowledge, information on financial services and marketing system. The main problem in the areas is that the day labour is the only source of income for the landless. Government and NGO's are not active in these areas because they are so hard to reach and are subjected to regular flooding. Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha will target these children and youth living in the flood-prone Chalanbeel regions of Natore and Pabna districts in the northwestern Bangladesh. The project sites are the low-lying area and subjected to flooding during the monsoon. Here many people have no land with which to support themselves. People only get one crop in a year and depend on fishing to supplement income and food supply. Road access is very limited in most parts of the project areas and boats are the only means of transport. Communities live along rivers or canals are mostly the landless. The villages have no mains electricity, no telephone lines, very basic sanitation and use water from wells or rivers.

Although all children are meant to get free education, it is difficult to find teachers who will stay in the region, transport is limited, and roads to schools get flooded in the monsoon. The flood prevents students from attending classes for three-four months. This often results in school dropouts and within a year these neo-literates relapse into illiterates. The children and youth that Shidhulai will work with are amongst the most disadvantaged in the country, because their parents are often too poor to access the micro-finance schemes that are available in many regions of Bangladesh. Most of the people live below the poverty line - some 50 percent of children under age 5 are malnourished and infant mortality rate is 41 deaths per 1,000 live births. One-third of the population is under 15 years of age.
Girls are not allowed to move around freely due to the cultural norms and the age of first marriage for females is 14 years. Therefore, many parents are reluctant to let girls go to school. Girl's primary school completion rates are much lower than boys.


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