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AIM-ing high for Bangladesh’s children
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AIM-ing high for Bangladesh’s children

YOUTH WORK WEEK SPECIAL: Mohammed Sayed started offering lessons to students in Bangladesh’s slums while still at university. In Bangladesh, nearly two out of five people live below the poverty line, according to the UNDP. To mark Youth Work Week, Tahiya Islam, a 26-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent from Dhaka, Bangladesh, caught up with Sayed, whose non-profit organisation has stepped up to close the gap in illiteracy and lack of educational opportunities for underprivileged children in Bangladesh.

In 2016, while studying towards his Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy at East West University in Dhaka, Mohammed Sayed witnessed young children begging and selling things at the institution’s entrance. He wondered to himself—when did these children go to school or study?

Sayed, 25, along with some of his fellow students and friends who were of the same mind, started mapping out plans to provide an education for such children. This led to the birth of AIM Initiative Foundation.

While still at university, Sayed and a team of volunteers started providing free lessons to the children in Meradiya and Boithakhali, two slum areas in Dhaka. The initiative was (and still is) purely volunteer-led.

Sayed gives one of the children a school uniform, paid for by one-off and regular sponsors

The volunteers visited the slums regularly to better understand families’ needs, reasons behind the children dropping out of school, and parents’ apparent lack of interest in educating their children as opposed to getting them to work or beg.

This initial groundwork was very enlightening. The volunteers got to learn that sending children to work ensured that families got two meals a day. If the children were sent to school, families would afford just one meal. This insight was extremely helpful.

In 2018, AIM established a free school in Meradiya, Dhaka. They hoped that by bringing the school to the community, children, along with their families would become more committed to formal education. It worked!

For over a year, AIM School Meradiya has offered free education to children between the ages seven and 11. There are three classrooms for a total of 76 children from kindergarten to Standard 2.

Aside the formal education, the children receive computer literacy, art, singing and physical training classes, which enhance their skills development.

Extra-curricular activities such as art are offered free to children at AIM School Meradiya

The school and the children’s needs, such as school uniform, are funded through one-off and regular donations from across the country. Sayed himself is among these regular contributors. As CEO of Pillow Platoon, an online business selling decorative pillows, he contributes part of his income to AIM.

The volunteers take part in a wide range of activities including: teaching the students, ensuring students’ mental and physical well-being, arranging various social, educational, health-sensitisation, environmental and cultural events, providing counselling to parents, and keeping track of the daily needs of the students.

Some of the AIM Initiative Foundation’s dedicated volunteers

The concept of volunteering is gaining momentum among Bangladeshi youth at high school and university levels. This is a positive sign that young people are engaged in tackling social, environmental and educational issues in the country.

 “I believe that being a privileged young person, it is my duty to ensure that the underprivileged children of our country get easy and effective access to education and skill development activities,” says Subrina Habib Antora, one of the 104 volunteers at AIM Initiative Foundation who is contributing her time, energy, and skills.

At the helm of this dedicated group of volunteers is Sayed, whose leadership, commitment and passion for helping the underprivileged children of Dhaka make him a fitting example of Youth Work in Action. We need more youth like Sayed and the volunteers at AIM to create social impact so that we can improve education rates and minimize poverty.

For more about AIM Initiative Foundation, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/aiminitiativefoundation/ or Instagram at aiminitiative_foundation

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About me: I am currently doing my Masters degree in Pharmacology and Toxicology from Universiti Putra Malaysia. Besides my studies, I’m working part time at the EasyUni Education Agency. I want to pursue teaching as my profession. I have a passion for writing and public speaking. I consider writing one my strengths and would like to explore that area in the near future. I strongly believe in women empowerment and work with a couple of women empowerment organisations.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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