Originally published on Daily Star.
There are different kinds of inequalities affecting the lives of children around the world. In fact, 1 in 10 children lives in a conflict zone, over 400 million live under poverty line, and 150 million have some form of disability. Save the Children's global campaign titled 'Every Last Child' aims to ensure survival and education for about 15 million children in 84 countries. Towards that goal, Save the Children in Bangladesh, in association with JAAGO Foundation and SHOUT, have undertaken a programme called 'Bridging the Gap'.
As part of this initiative, I, along with other students, have the opportunity to see firsthand how disadvantaged children in Bangladesh live, and hear them talk about their hopes and dreams. Kobita Akhter is one of them.
Kobita Akhtar is a 13 year old girl, who lives in Jafrabad slum in Dhaka with her family. Previously, her family lived in a village called Araliya in Kishoreganj district. In the slum, she stays with her family in a single room. Her full family has been living here for about 8 years. Kobita's family consists of her parents and 4 siblings – Sumon (16), Muhin (10), Subarna (8), and Shafika (7). She is the second child of her parents.
Her family is dependent on her mother and elder brother as her father, Shahid Miah (45), can't work because of his health condition. Her mother, Rahima Khatun (35), works from morning till night as a domestic help, and her elder brother works as a sweeper. Kobita's elder brother, who is only 3 years older than her, had to choose work over going to school. She has very clear ideas about the condition of her family and the struggles which she feels she can't escape. In spite of these miseries, Kobita hasn't given up on her dreams. She is optimistic that someday their situation would get better.
Going back to the time when they moved to Dhaka, Kobita's parents didn't have enough money for her and her siblings' education. At one point, they had to confess their inability and ask her not to go to school but she didn't let her hope fade away.
“When I understood that I can't have expectations from my parents, I started to save money for school by myself. I worked as a domestic help to manage my school fees, as there's no other alternative for someone like me,” Kobita said. She talked about her two dreams. First, she said, she wants to become a teacher so that she could provide education to children who can't afford school, as she doesn't want anyone to face the difficulties that she faces. Second, she wants to give her family a better living environment and a dignified position in society.
For her age, Kobita sounds like a much older person. This young girl has to overcome so many obstacles that she has become an old soul. I wish all of her dreams come true from the core of my heart.
Anika Tasnim is one of the young volunteers participating in the four week programme - Bridging the Gap - to get involved in reaching every last child.
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