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12 Dec

Home delivery (& more)

Home Delivery — food for thought
It’s quiet in our schools as I write this, even though in Bangladesh it’s 9 am and each of our 56 schools and pre-schools would be in full swing, with the chants of children bouncing off the corrugated iron walls and roof. Schools out…but not over and out! As you may know, we shut in March, in accordance with the requirements of the Bangladeshi government.

We continued to pay our teachers, to make sure that when we reopened, we could reopen at full strength… As the year dragged on, and the schools stayed shut, the team here in Australia grew restless…. It became clear, day after day, that we were not just losing a week or two, but a whole year of education in Bangladesh. So with special funding from Beaconhills College in Victoria, and led in particular by Cath Beaumont in Melbourne, and support from our coordinator in Dhaka, Ateka, and our local boss in Char Fasson, Riaz Hossen…we decided to try something new.

For me, it was all a bit back to the future. I grew up in remote regions of Queensland, and from 6th grade of primary school, I stopped going TO school. School came to me. It was the days before Google…in fact the days before Netscape, and so lessons arrived by mail, I’d do the lessons, and then post them back to Brisbane for marking. The cycle took around two weeks.

That’s pretty much what we did in Bangladesh, starting in August. We focused on the older kids, the final three years of primary school, but we hit a hurdle: no postage service! No nice signposts and house numbers to deliver to. So we decided to call our staff back to work and asked for volunteers to home deliver, Uber style, photocopied lessons. On foot! Through the mud! 98% of our staff said yes.

It’s a mammoth task, done on a weekly cycle, so the photocopiers run hot, and a fair bit of shoe leather has been worn out.

We’ll take a short break over the New Year period, take a deep breath, hope the schools reopen and then if they don’t, plan to take our unique Home Delivery service into the new year. The team refuse to accept that education should be put on hold. The kids, needless to say, are itching to get back to ‘proper’ school, but our students will be that little bit ahead of the rest of the nation.

Olav Muurlink

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