A char girl’s leap towards realising her dream

A father’s unconditional support crucial as his daughter takes a step forward in pursuing her aspirations of becoming a doctor, gaining admission to a medical school with full scholarship

A char girl happily throws up a peace sign, after finally making it into med school despite every circumstance
Bipasha is taking a step forward in her lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. ©Friendship/Most. Humayra Taznine
By Tahmeed Chaudhury
April 30, 2024

Bipasha Khatun, 20, was born in char Chowmohon in Gaibandha District. Growing up in a marginalised community in the remote, hard-to-reach realms of a shifting sedimentary river island in the heart of the Brahmaputra river basin, her upbringing was marred by challenging humanitarian circumstances. Her family had to shift homes four times in her lifetime because of floods and land erosion, as is typical for a char girl. They were economically dependent on a fruitful harvest by her father, Mohammad Bacchu Miah, who often found it difficult to make ends meet. Against all odds, Bipasha has earned herself a seat in the Holy Family Red Crescent Medical College in Dhaka with a full scholarship this year.

The Holy Family Red Crescent Medical College is a private medical college run by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS). Bipasha’s costs of education for the entirety of her MBBS degree will be fully funded by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) of the Ministry of Health in Bangladesh, as a result of her excellent academic records and admission test results.

“I can’t begin to express the emotions I felt when I heard the news,” an excited Bipasha recalls, emotions bubbling up. “My hard work finally came to fruition.”

Bipasha credits her father for his undeterred support in her journey. “My father could have had me married off like other girls my age, but he always gave me the right to choose. Despite our challenges, he financed my education and believed in my aspirations.”

A char girl and her proud father, who supported her decision to continue her studies and apply for med school
Bipasha (R) received unconditional support in her quests from her father, Mohammad Bacchu Miah (L). ©Friendship/Most. Humayra Taznine

“In the chars, in a society like ours, any investment in a girl child is frowned upon,” says Bacchu, a farmer. “Similarly, people from my extended family and the community have been trying to convince me to marry my daughter off, implying that investing in a daughter will bring no return.”

However, Bacchu Miah remained steadfast in his decision to support his daughter’s aspirations, a rare practice in remote, rural regions such as chars. Bipasha was always a keen learner and kept studying despite the difficult circumstances. “I wanted to become a doctor from a very young age,” says Bipasha. “There were no healthcare workers in our community, and people in general lacked health awareness of any kind. That fueled my ambitions.”

Bipasha began her schooling at the Friendship Primary School Chowmohon. After completing grade five in 2015, she took a brave decision, with support from her father, to leave her village to pursue further education. She stayed at a relative’s house in Lalmonirhat District up until her Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examinations, before moving to Rangpur on her own to complete her Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) examinations at the Government Begum Rokeya College. She earned A+ grades in her SSC and HSC examinations.

She subsequently began preparing for medical school admissions and sought help from Friendship’s Career Guidance Cell (CGC). The Career Guidance Cell has been established by Friendship to guide students in their aspirations for higher studies. It has so far connected students to reputable universities, skill development training programs, and to jobs.

A char girl stands in front of the medical college that she has enrolled in
Bipasha Khatun will start attending her MBBS classes at the Holy Family Red Crescent Medical College from the 2023-24 session. ©Friendship

\She initially fell short in her pursuit of gaining admission into a public medical college. “While it made me upset, I did not want to give up. I explored different avenues,” she exclaims. The undeterred Bipasha then applied to the University of Dhaka, the University of Rajshahi, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) and Hajee Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University, gaining admission to all of them. She started attending classes at SUST, however, her heart remained set on becoming a doctor. Advised by CGC, she began applying to private medical colleges. Her dream came true when she was accepted into the Holy Family Red Crescent Medical College to pursue an MBBS degree, with the icing on the cake being the government scholarship that she received on merit.

Bacchu Miah’s pride knows no bounds. He believes all fathers should place their faith on their daughters as much as they do on their sons. “Bipasha has always been a good and responsible child. Today, she makes me a proud father. All my efforts have been worthy.” He wants her to reach heights, take care of her family and help people.

Bipasha now wants to become a cardiac surgeon. “I want to open a chamber in my village and improve the healthcare infrastructure there. I want to help my people.” She advises char girls like her to chase their dreams and put their faith in the Almighty, despite the challenging circumstances they grow up in.

“Bipasha’s success and her determination will inspire students of Friendship schools and raise their hopes and aspirations,” says Brig. Gen. Ilyas Iftekhar Rasul (retd), head of Friendship’s education programme. “I believe it will also have a good impact in their communities for higher studies as well as in curbing early marriages of young girls.”

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