DHAKA: When winter reached northern Bangladesh, Mondira Roy had to stop attending school because her parents could not afford warm clothes for her.
But, with her education at stake, a unique initiative led by her fellow pupils at Sharodeshwari Girls High School in Dinajpur saved the day.
In January 2019, the school launched its “two-taka bank” scheme. Each of the school’s 710 pupils deposit at least two taka (approximately equivalent to two US cents) each month. They can then apply for an emergency loan — as eighth-grader Roy did — which will be granted based on a teacher’s recommendation.
“With his small wage, my father couldn’t provide me with (winter clothes),” Roy told Arab News. “Now I know our bank is here to provide assistance in times of emergency.”
Roy is not alone. Many other girls have avoided missing school thanks to this bank in which the students are stakeholders.
“Our students are very enthusiastic about the monthly deposit and two taka is a nominal amount for them. But it is a big support in times of emergency,” said assistant teacher Mohammad Musaddek Hosen, who initiated the scheme.
Hosen was inspired to start the project when he found one of his students crying because she did not have the 100 taka ($1.20) to pay for her graduation exam.
“By the end of 2019, we had collected $360 and have already provided support to 80 underprivileged students with this little fund. We spent the money mostly on buying uniforms, notebooks, calculators and other educational stuff,” he said.
According to the school’s headmaster, Ratan Kumar Roy, the student dropout rate has decreased by 80 percent since the bank was established.
“Not everyone applies for support from this fund, but all students deposit their money. With this approach, we are trying to create a sense of (empathy) in the hearts of the students, which will make them good human beings,” he said.
The scheme has already drawn attention and praise from local officials too.
“I examined the bank’s operation process in detail and found the idea very unique. I will replicate it at some other schools of my district within the year,” Dinajpur Commissioner Mahmudul Alam told Arab News.
Meanwhile, the school has already launched a new self-help initiative for students: a shop in which the girls can sell handmade arts and crafts. Revenues are shared between makers and the two-taka bank.