Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Tale of a torchbearer

Visually-impaired ex-cotton mill worker runs free education centre for children in Tangail
Rafiqul Bari indeed knows what it means to see nothing. He was born with normal organs, but a slight stomach problem at the age of two changed his life forever. Wrong treatment by a quack made him blind.
So to ease a little the heavy burden weighing down physically or mentally challenged children in life, he has set up a centre to give them the basic education and vocational training for free.
Founded in 2003 at Ghatail in Tangail, the Welfare Centre for Challenged offers general education up to class-III. The “school” has now 120 students aged between five and 16, 45 of whom are mentally challenged.
Inspired by Rafiqul’s initiative, some local youths joined hands. Of them, Bhajan Chandra Nath took charge as headmaster and Md Mukul, Shamsunnahar Begum, Shiuli Akhter and Razina Akhter as assistant teachers. They also do other work at the centre.
The vocational courses include sewing and boutique training for all the children, 55 of whom are girls.
Thanks to such education, training and care, some of them have overcome their physical and mental barriers.
Ten-year-old mentally challenged Shuvo, for example, has changed in many ways. His mother said he can now respond to and follow instructions. “He can also write,” she said.
Towhid Islam, also 10, has no hands. At the centre, he has mastered the skill of writing with his toes.
The “school” is unique in that it has no steadfast rules for learning, nor is there any rigorous test. It is a care-more-force-less method. However, three examinations are held every year as in other schools, and students are required to pass for promotion to the next class. Most students take two years to complete each grade.
On completion of education at the centre, a number of students got admitted to other schools. A few others now work at different tailoring shops in the area.
Shamsunnahar, a third year student of Ghatail GBG College, teaches Bangla and Social Science at the centre. She said the instructors had no training in teaching physically and mentally impaired children, but they are doing it sincerely.
Asked about his experience in working for these disadvantaged children, Rafiqul said, “Sometimes they are considered a burden on the family and society, but it is not true. They can lead a normal life if they get proper care and some training.”
It pains him that many parents do not treat their challenged kids well. “They [parents] spend a lot of time and money for their ‘normal’ children, but ignore the needs of the challenged ones.”
Initially, six young boys and girls began teaching at the centre without any remuneration. In February this year, three other teachers were appointed. They all now get a little honoraria.
In the beginning, arranging money was his main challenge. So he started a microcredit programme to maintain costs. The Ghatail cantonment authorities came forward to provide a second-hand microbus and Tk 1 lakh. Things eased further for him when local political, social and business leaders extended support to his cause.
In 2005, the then deputy commissioner of Tangail allotted a piece of land at Chandusi of Ghatail municipality for the setting up of the centre.
“Basically, the centre runs on the income from the microcredit programme and some donations,” Rafiqul told The Daily Star.
Born in 1968 in Baguntali under Tangail upazila, Rafiqul remained at home for much of his childhood. His parents, whom he lost in his 20s, took him to many doctors but no treatment could restore his vision.
In 1983, he undertook a series of training at the National Federation of the Blind, as he wanted to grow into a self-dependent man. He also received a multitude of vocational training.
He joined Tangail Cotton Mills at Mirzapur as a worker in 1989 but lost his job when the company laid off staff in 2002.
It was time for a new beginning, he thought. So he returned home and set up the centre with the money he had saved and got through the golden handshake.
The school section started its journey with 15 students in May the same year.
Rafiqul Bari terms the progress made in the last eight years positive. But his challenges lie ahead. “I want to set up a hostel for the children and arrange training for the teachers,” he said.
As for himself, Rafiqul, still single, lives in a tin-shed room near the centre. He does his own shopping, cooking, washing and everything else.
He can move alone. He has his stick to show him the way.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

Related News

Frequent cyclones hit agriculture hard in coastal Bangladesh

DAE estimates Tk 387cr worth crops loss in Midhili Emran Hossain With another cyclonic storm brewing in the Bay of Bengal, the third one in a little over a month, farmers on Bangladesh’s coast are busy harvesting their partially ripened crops, potentially losing their expected production significantly. The Department of Agricultural Extension completed its assessment ... Read more

Week-long tree fair ends

News Desk : dhakamirror.com A week-long tree fair and plantation drive, held on Moulvibazar Government High School grounds, concludes today. The fair, organised by Moulvibazar district administration and the Department of Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation, began on July 27. Students, among other visitors, got the chance to explore an array of varieties, both local ... Read more

Trees on 50 acres lost in 5yrs

Sohrab Hossain The Shuvo Sandhya Beach in Barguna’s Taltali upazila has been facing serious erosion by the Bay for the last couple of years. Due to continuous erosion by the Bay, nearly 50 acres of forestland close to the beach and about 60,000 trees have already been washed away in the last five year. Meanwhile, ... Read more

Kuakata Beach: 75,000 trees lost to erosion every year

Md Abbas There was a time when coconut, palm, tamarisk, and mangrove trees swayed with the winds on Kuakata Beach. Their tall trunks guarded the shore-dwellers against the wrath of natural calamities. However, the current state of the National Park, a government-declared forest reserve along this coastal belt since 2005, only brings dismay to tourists ... Read more

Bogura yoghurt, Chapainawabganj Langra and Ashwina receive the GI label

News Desk : dhakamirror.com Four more products, including the yogurt of Bogura, and Langra and Ashwina varieties of mango of Chapainawabganj have been recognised as geographical indication (GI) products from Bangladesh. In addition, the Aman variety of the fragrant Tulshimala rice from Sherpur has also acquired the GI tag, Md Zillur Rahman, deputy registrar (Trade ... Read more

BINA Dhan-25 shows hope

Farmers get higher yield from newly developed rice variety Sajjad Hossain Mannan Joaddar cultivated BINA Dhan-25, a newly developed variety of paddy, on one bigha of land in Moghi village of Magura 93 days ago. The 55-year-old farmer is now over the moon. He had not seen such thin and long grain in his 20 ... Read more

Banana cultivation shows bright prospect

Shykh Seraj Agriculture in Tangail region has changed a lot in the last three decades. Once the land of this region was unfit for any cultivation. Back then, it wasn’t possible to grow crops due to uneven land surface and lack of irrigation facilities. In the early 80s, the topography of Tangail’s Sakhipur, Ghatail, Basail ... Read more

Maize farming leading char farmers to financial stability

Mostafa Shabuj About two decades ago, farmers in remote char areas of northern Bangladesh were quite impoverished due to the consequences of repeated flooding and other natural disasters. Now though, these farmers have achieved financial stability by growing maize, which is more suitable for the region compared to other crops. For example, more profitable crops ... Read more

Farmers find hope in solar-powered irrigation

EAM Asaduzzaman Life is easier now for Abu Taleb, 45, a potato farmer of Saddyo Puskuruni village in Rangpur. A year ago, high irrigation costs for diesel-run pumps, which he bore out-of-pocket, made it difficult for him to provide for his three children. Now, after switching to solar-powered irrigation, his livelihood has changed for the ... Read more

Shoilmari: A river dead, livelihoods endangered

Dipankar Roy The once mighty Shoilmari river in Khulna’s Batiaghata upazila can now only be called a river on paper. In just three years, it has been filled with silt. The once 150-metre-wide river has now turned into a 3 to 4-metre narrow channel. Boats cannot sail there in low tide and people can cross ... Read more

Countrywide heavy rains until 13 Sep

News Desk : dhakamirror.com The current heavy rains brought on by the depression at the Bay of Bengal are predicted to last until Tuesday, according to the weather forecast service. The low will weaken in next 24 hours and move towards the plain land through Odisha and towards Chhatishgarh through West Bengal afterwards. Mostafa Kamal ... Read more

120 hills disappeared from Chattogram in 4 decades

An environmental group called Bangladesh Environment Forum alleged Sunday that 120 hills had vanished from Chattogram city in the past forty years. The port city’s hills decreased from 32.37 square kilometers in 1976 to 14.02 square kilometers in 2008, according to a written statement from the forum’s general secretary, Aliur Rahman. He was addressing during ... Read more

A young agro enthusiast helping farmers in Tangail

Mirza Shakil When the pandemic hit and in-person classes at universities were suspended, Shakil Ahmed, then a final-year student of agriculture department at Noakhali Science and Technology University, had returned home. But he refused to sit idle, and so, asked his father for a plot of land to farm squash. The yield was massive as ... Read more

Brood fish release sample eggs in Halda

Brood fish in the Halda have released sample eggs – indicating full spawning – since Saturday night at various points of the river. Egg collectors got 200-500 grammes of eggs on average since Saturday night from the river. Ashu Barua from Madunaghat area, a seasoned egg collector, told The Daily Star that they started coming ... Read more

Ban on catching hilsa to end at midnight after 2 months

The ban on catching hilsa will be lifted at midnight today after two months. The fisheries department said due to the two-month ban, it will be possible to collect the desired target of 6 lakh tonnes of hilsa fish this time, reports our Barishal correspondent. However, many fishermen said they are not interested in going to ... Read more

Second chance at education for Pirojpur elderly

“I never knew there’s so much beauty and fun hidden inside a book,” said 44-year-old Salma Begum, who learned to read and write very recently. “I had to blindly trust anyone who could read to let me know the contents of important documents. Now I’m self-sufficient in that regard, and use my own signature instead of ... Read more

Barind farmers at mercy of DTW operators

Ethnic minorities suffer more Suzon Ali . Rajshahi Farmers in the Barind region are held hostage by Barind Multipurpose Development Authority deep tube well operators. Some farmers in the region said that deep tube well operators did not irrigate their land properly while others said that operators extracted extra money and ‘undue benefits’ from them. Talking ... Read more

Local seeds for local needs

Female farmers of Khulna exchange varieties at fair Dipankar Roy Seeds of local varieties – preserved by families for generations – have been the most adaptive way of cultivation for the distinct climatic conditions of the country’s coastal areas. In what is considered a yearly tradition, female farmers exchange the seeds at the “seed fair”, ... Read more

Ingenious indigenous innovation

Kabuljan Begum’s eco-friendly oven makes waves across Rajshahi Anwar Ali Fourteen years ago, Kabuljan Begum developed an environment-friendly oven to keep herself and her family safe from air pollution caused by open-fire ovens. Her solution has now become the go-to choice for hundreds of others in the rural areas of Rajshahi region, covering three districts ... Read more

Tow month long hilsha fishing ban imposes from today

In a bid to conserve Jatka or juveniles of hilsa, the government has imposed a two-month ban on netting, selling and transporting hilsa in six sanctuaries from today (March 1). Bimal Chandra Das, fisheries officer of Barishal, said the ban is going to be observed across 432km area of six districts, including three in Barishal division. ... Read more