Author: Suman Chowdhury Mony, August 31 2015 - One of the very nice shiny morning of May 2015. The hills show their natural beauty. Suddenly clouds have come and surrounded the whole area. After ten minutes, clouds have gone and everything gets clearly visible. It seems that the hilly area flourishing itself newly. Very nice moments for the travelers, come from the plane lands. But it is the common phenomenon of this hilly area named Sajek, one of the nicest hilly area of Bangladesh, where the clouds are playing hide & seek game. And where the nature shows it’s exclusive beauty.  It is also the biggest union of Bangladesh, but very remote area of Rangamati district which is one of the beautiful hilly district of this country. Sajek is adjacent of Mizoram, a nicest state of India.

When the clouds have gone, five children, three of them are girls, have come to be visible; the girls are blue dressed and boys are in green, climbing on a vertical hill. But where they are going?

‘Konglak Para’ is a small place of tribal people situate on a big hill, height of about 1800 feet from the sea level. There are two tribal groups, one is ‘Lusai’ and another is ‘Pangkhoya’. The Pangkhoya is one of the disappearing tribal societies of Bangladesh and India as well.

There is a tin-shade house in the far side of Konglak Para, which is almost broken. The doors and windows are destroyed; everything is open and many holes are on the roof top tin shade! The house is made by a fence, but also mostly broken.

Ohhhh!!! No, it is not an abandoned house. It is a Light House. A Light House of the remote hilly area. A School, named ‘Konglak Government Primary School’. Yes !!! Government Primary School !!! According to Primary Education Authority of Bangladesh, the Konglak Government Primary School (school code: 91414070208) was established in 1966, but the foundation of the school house was created in 1965. There are only 46 students in class one to class five. All the students have come from Lusai, Pangkhoya, Tripura, Cakma, etc., tribal groups who live in Sajek. There are two teachers, but one is on long leave, so now this school has one (and only) teacher named ‘Sangpui Rose Merry Lusai’, who teaches all students in one room.  

But how? She calls them class-wise by groups of students in front of her and teaches them and the rest of the students have to wait for their call. If any day she doesn’t come into school, then the classes go to "auto close". Not only that, most of the rainy days, the school closes because it is in a very remote area, most of the students come from 3-5 Km. from here by foot, crossing many unfinished and dangerous hilly roads. Also, in a rainy day, water enters in the classroom and makes the students and their books wet. On other hand, on a normal day, many students are absent due to work in crop cultivation with their family members or other household workers. It is 50 Km distance from the nearest police station, named ‘Bagaichori’. There is no primary school within 25-30 Km around it. For those reasons, the richest families of the tribal groups Lusai and Pangkhoya send their children to study in Mizoram (border is open for these two tribal groups). It is true that the adjacent areas of Sajek which are in Mizoram are more develop than Sajek.

Though the Bangladesh Government is running a Midday Meal Program for every primary school student to attract the students every day in the classroom and to reduce the rate of dropped student from education, it is very woeful that the students haven’t come to the cycle of this program!

The whole area of Sajek is one the most remote areas of Bangladesh. Once upon a time, there were no finished roads here. But a few months ago, the Bangladesh Army created a tourist spot here named Sajek Vally at Rui Lui para near Komnglak para and has made some roads to come here from Khagrachori, another hilly district of Bangladesh. For that reason, the deceived people of Sajek now get some roads. The Border Guard of Bangladesh (BGB) has made ‘Ruilui Junior High School’ at Ruilui Para, where students read in class six to class eight. After finishing class eight lessons if they want to read more, then they have to go to ‘Bagaihat High School’ about 20 Km distance from here. Once they went here by foot, but now they can go by jeep, though the jeep transport is not available yet.

There are thousands of schools in Bangladesh and most of them are Government schools. Many of them are in very remote areas. Whereas Bangladesh is a developing country, it is very difficult to develop every area and every school at once. And, it is true that Bangladesh has developed many schools in various areas but ‘Konglak Government Primary School’ is one of the very unlucky schools due its remote communication. Also, it is very sorrowful that Bangladesh Government didn’t properly look after this 50-year-old school.

In another side, local people could take the initiative to develop this school. They could fence the school house, repair the roof, windows and doors, etc. Hill areas have plenty of trees, and we know local people can work hard, so if they wish they could develop this school house easily for their children. But in the same style of most of the area, the local people don’t take initiatives to develop it and until now they are waiting for the Government initiatives!

Not only Bangladesh, but also many developing and under developed countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America have the same circumstances. Poor economic conditions, socio-political problems, racial antagonism, unfriendly strategy for remote area etc., are the main obstacles of doing development works in those countries. Also, there are lacks of motivation of people for participatory developments. People of those areas don’t know how to use their own social and natural assets. But we see that there are many rich people who have established many educational institutions unnecessarily in their locality for getting and enjoying so-called fame, although there are already one or more institutions and no need for extra institutions in their localities! If the Government of those countries motivate and encourage those rich people to set up education institutions where needed and repair or develop any broken institutions in rural and remote areas then it brings more effective development-based results for the country. If necessary the Government should creates new law or implement existing law about this matter.  

To properly develop an education institution, an area, and also a country, both of Government and the local people should take several types of initiatives from their sites. They should not wait for one another.  International and national donors, aid and development agencies should come to develop those areas and institutions.

So the question is what to do now?

  • Every country should have remote- and rural-area-friendly development strategies and select and do some priority development. They need to categorise some areas including education institutions for doing priority-basis development.
  • Government should start some programs for building human capital.
  • Governments, civil societies, NGOs, etc., can take campaign programs for building awareness for people on participatory development. They should motivate people for joining in the local development work.
  • Local people should also motivate themselves to take part in several types of local development works from their sites. They can participate according to their abilities. Some of them will give money, some give physical labour, etc. They should not wait for Government initiatives, together they can do more assets-based development works by proper using of their own and natural assets.

Children of many areas of many developing and under developed countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America, including Bangladesh, same as the children of Sajek, are dreaming to be a doctor, teacher, engineer, policymaker or renowned person in the future by educating themselves and want to serve their communities and country by getting over the neglect, deception, and many obstacles they have faced now.

Every day the sun rises over the hills, nurturing the nature; the Light Houses of the remote areas are also nurturing the dreams of the local children who are really disregarded. Hopefully, in the future, they will touch their dreams and fulfill their desires.

Click here for the original post on Suman Chowdhury Mony's blog Development: Together We Can.