What happens when one of the most densely populated countries in the world becomes a victim of floods and rising water levels? Bangladesh is a delta with an incredibly high density of river systems that are also highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In fact, in 1998, two-thirds of the country was flooded leaving millions homeless, and it is only getting worse. How could a country continue to educate its citizens when the country is prone to flooding four to five months out of the year? Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a nonprofit organization in Bangladesh, has the answer- they have created “floating schools.”
When the rainy months bring monsoons that inundate the land in Bangladesh, schools are closed and students find themselves confined to their homes. This interferes with the education process, at least until 2002 when the first floating school, or boat school, was introduced. Shidhulai’s founder and executive director, Mohammed Rezwan, grew up in the northwest of Bangladesh, which made him familiar with the intense monsoons that the late summer months bring. When he was growing up, he was one of the lucky few that had a boat, thus allowing him to attend school year-round. His friends were not as lucky. They could not make the trek to school in those months, denying them access to an education. This became the initial idea for Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha. Rezwan says, “I thought, if the children cannot come to school because of floods, then the school should go to them by boat.” Upon his completion of a degree in architecture from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology in Dhaka, Rezwan founded the organization in 1998. Four years later, after sifting through the Internet for help, he was able to fund the first boat school, and there are no signs of slowing down. Shidhulai now has twenty boat schools, ten libraries, seven adult centers, and has also received numerous grants, including a $1 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Golden Key was founded to recognize and encourage academic excellence and understands the importance of education. Bangladesh’s boat schools are a prime example of creatively solving a unique problem so that the population has a chance to get the education they need and desire.