A Message From Rez: Week 1 at Ariel, All Girls Preschool in Slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh

Hi Everyone,

Storytime. Afsana, one of my students, is reading. She has been absolutely indispensable. Coordinated teacher training at Scholastica school, and is organizing the schedule of teachers for each week.

The indispensable Afsana, also one of my grad students, leads storytime.  She coordinated teacher training at Scholastica school and is organizing the schedule of teachers for each week.

Ariel opened Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, at 9AM.  We had 8 girls each day.

Apparently one of the slums where we recruited girls a couple of months ago has been torn down. The residents have scattered. I suspected something like this might happen.

Second, I learned that if the school is too far of a walk, parents often do not make the effort. The school is only about a 5-10 minute walk from the original recruitment pool, but it looks like that is too much for some. I did not expect this.  I’ll do some recruiting nearer the school.

School itself is going really well – better than my expectations. I thought the real challenge would be attention levels: would the girls sit for an hour without fidgeting or acting up? The answer is yes.

Drawing circles. Teacher here ( in orange shirt) is Moushumi. I am looking at her as potential assistant principal, down the line. She just graduated, Eng Lit major. Very good with the kids.

Teacher Moushumi is drawing circles with the children.  She just graduated with an English Literature degree and is very good with the kids.

The first day, they spent a lot of time rubbernecking and looking to their mothers for cues and reassurance – especially during story time. But by Day 3, there was significantly less of that. They are adapting.

They are taking to drawing like ducks to water. We have done circles, triangles, squares and rectangles (although they are finding it hard to grasp the difference between the last two). Their motor skills are all over the place, but that may be just due to the age variation.

They also seem to love washing their hands. By Day 3 (yesterday), they needed hardly any prompting to go to the washbasin.

Kushbo and Mahami have moved onto triangles. These two are quick learners.

Kushbo and Mahami have moved onto triangles. These two are quick learners.

This surprised me, because residents of the slums are famous for not diligently hand washing with soap and water. It looks like the reason is simply that they do not have running water and washbasins in their homes.

Another surprise is that the parents wanted to take the storybooks home. So on Tuesday I handed out all 5 to 5 parents, for overnight loan. They returned all 5 yesterday. So I will look to do this every day. Some parents cannot read, but they said they knew someone who could.

Handwashing. We do this three times. At start, after eating, at the end.

We wash hands at the start of our day, after we eat, and just before school ends.

I can hardly recall seeing any books in any of the myriad slum households I have visited. So I love the idea of books lying around their homes. Perhaps this can be expanded into something like a community library project?

Next week, we will introduce music into the curriculum. We will start to learn two classic Bangla children’s songs – one by Rabindranath Tagore and one by Satyajit Ray.

As I mentioned in my last email, I wanted to see what happened in the first week, then see how many turn up on the first day of the second week (this coming Sunday), before giving you a headcount for food deliveries. I think it may turn out to be between 10 and 12 next week. Will let you know.


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