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Bluebell School provides children with a decent, no-fees education from pre-school to grade five. Most students are from a nearby social housing “cluster village” for ultra-poor families. On a recent site visit, BHP Director John Richards completed another of his on-going evaluations of Bluebell students. This year, for comparison, we included a sample of students attending schools in the nearby town of Balagram, using a survey protocol developed by an Indian NGO so that we could also compare results in Pakistan and India. Due to the small size of Bluebell school, all students in grades 3 to 5 were surveyed.

John discussing progress with two of the volunteer surveyors.

The in-home survey used two simple tests for reading and arithmetic skills:

·         ability to do subtraction and division: The share of students able to do subtraction and division in Bluebell (16.7%) is nearly twice that in Balagram schools (8.9%). The all-India government school average at grade 5 (21.6%) is higher than in Bluebell.

·         ability to read grade 2 level story: The reading result is slightly better among the Balagram school students (46.7%) than in Bluebell (43.3%) and both are better than grade 5 Indian children attending government schools (38.5%).

The results are somewhat disappointing. Two important factors are, firstly, learning loss during the COVID pandemic when all schools were closed for nearly two years. Bluebell teachers provided in-home support but this was not sufficient, perhaps in part because of the second factor: inability of students’ parents to support learning. Only 40% of Bluebell students have at least one parent able to read; in Balagram, 70% of surveyed families have at least one literate parent.

Meeting with Bluebell teachers in guest-house

Our follow-up meeting focused on solutions including rearrangements and replacements in teachers and lesson plans. Bluebell teachers will also intensify their efforts to help students become active learners through group study, mixed-age lessons, community service projects (clean-up, tree planting, helping parents at home), regular parent-teacher interactions, and home visits when students are absent.

OFP Founder Rabiul Islam summed up the situation, “Children attending Bluebell School are at high risk of dropout because of their families’ illiteracy, unawareness of educational outcomes and poverty. They remain vulnerable to rollback so quickly. We will continue our focus on continuous improvement and assessment, confident that our children will be able to do better in the near future.” 

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In early 2024, BHP Directors John Richards and Alex Berland joined OfP Founder, Rabiul Islam for a site visit to Balagram. At OIST - Oasis for Science and Technology, they met with faculty in the Civil Engineering Technology and Computer Technology programs. They also presented scholarships to needy and meritorious students. Students from OfP’s Bluebell School who have graduated from high school are eligible for free tuition at OIST.  Please contact us if you would like to contribute to a scholarship at OIST.

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The IUBAT College of Nursing is a 4-year BSN program based in an English-medium not-for-profit university in Dhaka. The Bangladesh Health Project is staffed by Canadian volunteers, under the sponsorship of Vancouver’s Mid-Main Community Health Centre. We pay program costs through donations and receive no government support.

Visiting faculty volunteers support local faculty to teach the nursing content, including clinical practice supervision and curriculum development. Volunteers are English speakers with various backgrounds such as professional educators, nurses of various qualifications with practical experience, and recently-graduated interns. Some volunteers come from other health care professions such as laboratory medicine, psychiatric social work, nutrition and so on; we also need English teachers.

We cannot pay airfare, but can offer free room and board in the university guest house close to the campus. Six weeks is our preferred minimum visit so that there is enough time for volunteers to be oriented and feel useful. We arrange airport pick-up and drop-off in Dhaka so that you are taken care of and can focus on the task during your time there. There are also opportunities to support the nursing college from home using internet-based tools. Please contact us for further information.

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