Road to education and prosperity

27 Mar 2014

imageAfter completion of the new road with brick flat soling, the villagers of Betagi Upazila can move easily, no matter how bad the weather is. Photo: UNDP Bangladesh.

Unlike previous years, Rina Begum, 36, a mother of three kids, is not very worried about sending her kids to schools during the upcoming rainy season.

The housewife from North Karuna village of Hosnabad Union under Betagi Upazila of Borguna district recalls, ‘Earlier, rainy season usually meant loss of school days. Rainfall during the four-month period made the roads connecting nearby villages to schools almost inaccessible. Children could hardly use these roads to get to school, leading to loss in school days.’

Seasonal rain left deep craters in the dirt road, rendering it inaccessible to any vehicle. ‘When it rained, the potholes turned into lakes,’ says Soma Akhter, daughter of Rina Begum and a Class Three student at 27 No. Madhya Karuna Government Primary School. ‘We, very often, avoided the road altogether and made our way through the paddy fields inundated with rainwater.’

‘It was better to take boat to pass through the neighbouring small water-body to reach schools. It was really risky. Lots of schoolchildren sustained serious injuries after slipping on the muddy road,’ Rina says, adding, ‘We, the parents, were really scared about our kids.’

‘So, it was an annual and unofficial vacation for most children, as well as a big disruption to education,’ says Rina.

A Road to education 
Only recently, after completion of a new road with brick flat soling, Soma can now reach her school every day easily, no matter how bad the weather is. Her mother, Rina Begum, does not need to worry about her girl now.

The Betagi Upazila Parishad, with the support from Upazila Governance Project (UZGP), constructed the road which has begun rendering results. 

Like Soma, 10,500 other students studying at the four primary schools, two secondary schools and two colleges of two Union Parishads--Hosnabad and Mokamia---under the Upazila have begun to reap the benefits from the all-weather road which enables them to access the schools with greater ease.

‘Students, particularly the girls, are now attending schools regularly and we believe that it will have a great impact on education, reducing the number of absentees and dropouts, in the UZP,’ says Md. Zakir Hossain, Assistant Headmaster of Madya Karuna Government Primary School.

‘The rainy season was usually a great a blow to us. Parents were reluctant to send their children to schools through the flooded and muddy roads. But, within three months of after repairing the road, we have started getting results. Attendance in the school increased significantly and drop-out rates have been reduced,’ he adds.

Following the recommendation made by UZP (Standing) Committee on Physical Infrastructure and Communication, the Betagi Upazila Parishad, took the scheme, to construct the 1,600-feet road, aimed at providing the rural poor better economic opportunities and access to education and health services.  

The UZGP, under its fiscal facility grant, co-financed the UZP in constructing the road.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), European Union (EU) and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), are providing the financial assistance to UZGP for strengthening institutional, managerial and technical capacities of the Upazila Parishads (UZPs) to ensure better public service delivery and thereby alleviate poverty. The five-year project is being implemented by the Local Government Division (LGD), Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (LGRD& C).

Reaping economic benefits
The benefits of the road go further than school-going children.

The new road, made of bricks, connects a number of villages in two UPs to markets, hospitals, administrative centres, enabling the rural poor to avail of better economic opportunities and access better health, education and business services. The smoother road not only cuts travel time and cost for the villagers, it is helping the farmers to carry more goods/products to sell in the local markets.

The villagers are also saying that the new smoother road will save lives, particularly pregnant women and ao;omg children. ‘Now we will be able to take the patients to UZP Sadar Hospital and other clinics there more quickly,’ says Runu Begum, one of the inhabitants of South Karuna village.

Md. Sona Gazi, 25, a vegetable and dairy farmer of Madhya Karuna village of Hosnabad Union, appreciates the benefits the road has brought when he says, ‘Now, I can cycle to the local markets to sell my vegetable and dairy products. It saves my money and time. It has increased my income and now I can afford three meals a day for my children and send them to schools.’

‘A better transportation means a greater market access, an improved access to schools, hospitals and administrative centres. The new road brings development to the local communities and is playing a significant role in achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at a local level,’ says Mr. Monir Hossain Howlader, Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Betagi UZP.

Lauding the UZGP for providing financial support to the scheme, A B M Golam Kabir, Chairman of Betagi UZP, says, ‘The road is a game-changer in reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity in the Upazila.’

 The UZGP, during its first year in 2013, provided a total of BDT 17 lakh to Betagi Upazila as Upazila Fiscal Facility (UFF) grants. With the grants, the Upazila Parishad took 13 schemes focusing on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and pro-poor issues including education, health, poverty alleviation and women empowerment. 

‘I am really happy now...I can go to the school and attend my classes everyday...I don’t bother about the weather now...and all this was possible for the new road,’ says Soma.