Dresses are more than fashion: How a simple act by local school management committees made school a reality
The start of a new school year often elicits excitement of seeing friends, new pens and notebooks, and even a fresh school uniform. However, for many students from poor households in Bangladesh, their families cannot afford the uniforms required to attend school. When families have limited resources, boys’ uniforms usually get priority over dresses for the girls. Because school uniforms are required, the lack of a dress for school means many girls can’t go to school.
At the beginning of each school year, School Management Committees, SMCs, begin their annual planning process. During this process, they identify what they’ll do over the upcoming school year to help the school and the children in their village. This includes identifying challenges that students at their school face. This year, the SMCs in three villages in the Sunamganj area of Bangladesh identified the lack of new uniforms as a reason why some students in their village could not attend school; this was true especially for girls that lacked school dresses.
While the SMC in Perua Village led a local fundraising effort to purchase uniforms for the students who didn’t have any, the SMC in Charnerchar Village met with parents individually to advocate for them to prioritize the cost of uniforms so their daughters could attend school.
In Madurapur village, the SMC not only prioritized the issue of uniforms, but they called a meeting with the Chairman of the Union Parish to engage him on the issue. In collaboration with the Chairman, the SMC reached out to a local water management committee, who provided funding for new uniforms. These were presented in a community meeting in September.
In addition to ensuring that these students now have the proper school uniforms to attend school, communities are reporting on the additional effects that have resulted from the activities. One SMC reported that as a result of the new uniforms, students have become more enthusiastic to regularly come to school, and parents are also increasingly inspired to send their children to school. Motiur Rahman, the Vice President of the SMC in Madurapur shared that “the initiative was amazing because the dress distribution ceremony was held in the presence of government officials, local MP, UP chairman and local elites”. The schools’ positive reputation received from implementing this activity has resulted in increased positive opportunities the local education office has provided.
Parents have noticed a change, too. A father whose son is studying in class two mentioned that “after the distribution of uniforms, class attendance has increased, and the students are inspired to go to school regularly. I observed my son going to school more regularly”.
Perhaps the change inspired by these new school uniforms is best captured by one of the girls who received a dress. Moni, a grade 5 student, shared that “It used to make me cry, not being able to go to school because I had no uniform; my parents didn’t have enough money. Now that I have a school dress, I am really happy. I am really happy because I can spend happy time with my friends in school.”
By Amanda Moll, CARE USA Education Team