Test of fortitude for char students appearing for SSC exams

FRIENDSHIP SCHOOL STUDENTS OPTIMISTIC DESPITE TRAVELLING MILES AWAY FROM HOME TO SIT FOR NATIONAL MATRICULATION EXAMS

Friendship Secondary School students prior to the start of one of their SSC examinations. ©FRIENDSHIP

by TAHMEED CHAUDHURY
September 21, 2022

Tenth graders around the country are busy sitting for the national Secondary School Certification (SSC) examinations, which are finally taking place after being postponed in June due to the then alarming flood situation in the country. 28 Friendship secondary school students in the northern char (riverine islands) areas are also participating in the examinations, which began on September 15 and are expected to end on October 1.

While the students are optimistic about the opportunity to appear for education board exams, their situation is rather different from other examinees. Living on remote, hard-to-reach sedimentary islands in the middle of major rivers, char residents are some of the most marginalised populations in the country. Detached from the mainland, they are largely underserved and fall outside the reach of basic necessities.

Their geographic disadvantage extends to hamper their educational progress. Whereas educational institutions are elusive in chars, examination centres are entirely absent. Hence, char students are required to travel miles from their homes to the nearest exam centre, unlike students living on the mainland who are placed in centres within their localities. Since travelling to and from the exam centre on a daily basis is not feasible, students are usually kept in a rented accommodation for the duration of the exams.

Students in class, observing video lessons recorded by skilled teachers in Dhaka. ©FRIENDSHIP

Students from Friendship Secondary School Batikamari, Friendship Secondary School Paglar char and Friendship Secondary School Sidhai are at present residing in a rented house near the exam centre in Char Newaji, Rajibpur. They travelled three hours by boat on a rainy day to get there.

Musammat Ayesha Akhter, an examinee from Friendship Secondary School Paglar char, feels homesick at times but remains in cheerful spirits. “I have never lived away from my parents for this long, so I do miss home. However, I try to remain busy with revisions, and the company of my friends, classmates and teachers keeps me in good spirits,” says Ayesha.

Friendship School Sidhai student Mohammad Shaon Mia is also putting the contentment from a life changing examination ahead of the struggles. “The journey was a bit difficult as it was raining. However, we are about to appear for one of the most important tests in our life, so this was a small obstacle in our efforts to lead a better life.”

According to Md. Iftekharul Islam, supervisor, Friendship secondary education in Gaibandha, who accompanied the students to char Newaji, the students are buoyed by the prospects of appearing for a national board examination for the first time. “Their commitment and optimism after coming here left me surprised. They are motivated to study harder than ever and are trying to make the most of the situation.” Iftekharul also said that they are all living in a safe environment and given proper meals and that their parents are frequently updated about their situation.   

Abul Hasan, a Geography teacher, providing live lessons from Dhaka to students in remote chars. ©AYON DAS/FRIENDSHP

Friendship Secondary Schools provide secondary education to students from vulnerable communities in remote char areas and prepare them for SSC examinations by following the national curriculum, imparting lessons and keeping them in practice with mock tests. They use lessons pre-recorded by top-tier schoolteachers in Dhaka and trained facilitators supervise the classes.

The SSC exam results will play a significant determining role in their future—what higher studies institutions they can go to, or what jobs they can have. Ahead of the exams, Friendship arranged live video lessons with schoolteachers in Dhaka, allowing direct student-teacher interactions. In 2021, all 34 Friendship secondary school students who appeared for their SSC examinations passed.

Both Ayesha and Shaon said their examinations have gone well thus far, and are confident of acing the remainder of their examinations. “The additional three months have given us more time to prepare ourselves. I am confident of getting A+ in all the subjects,” Ayesha concluded.

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