Somewhere near the Southern outskirts of the huge and crowded city of Dhaka, Bangladesh, there is a tiny little school, crammed into a small apartment type building, that is trying to make a difference.
In a country of over 160 million people, a school of 350 students seems pretty insignificant, but the work that’s being done there is significant, and makes a huge difference in the lives of the students that pass through its doors and up its stairs.
At GEMS our aim is for our students to understand, we believe they can do the work by themselves, and our teachers work hard to make their teaching interesting, relevant and thought-provoking. We have seen the difference this can make and have seen students come out of 10-12 years of education with us who are leaders, creative thinkers, problem-solvers and decent members of their communities.
One such student is a young woman named Khushi.
Khushi came from a slum area where she was chosen to be sponsored to come to GEMS when she was around nine years old. She was not ever a brilliant student, nor was she particularly passionate about anything, and she was often an overlooked student, one of those ones you don’t really notice too much in your class. She would tend to try to memorise information rather than trying to understand and she absolutely hated Maths! She was often absent from school as her family would take her to the village to help out with various family members. She is the youngest of six children, and one of only two girls, so she was often called upon to look after nieces and nephews. If you had asked me five years ago if I thought she would be able to pass international exams, and if she would be a leader and example to others, I probably would have said no.
When Khushi was in Class Eight, something changed. She failed her exams at the end of the year and was asked to either re-sit the exams, or repeat Class 8. We gave the students around 4 weeks to study and then sit the exams again. Most of the students didn’t study and failed their exams again, but Khushi studied. She became determined to succeed, and she did. She scraped through her exam re-sits and was allowed to go into the O’Level class in 2015.
To cut a long story short, Khushi slowly started to shine. She also gained a lot of wisdom and confidence in herself and her abilities. She worked hard, she asked for help when needed, she served in the school and she enjoyed school immensely. She started to live up to her name (Khushi means happy in Bengali) and her mind started to open up.
Fast forward to an emotional day in mid-January this year. The results that she gained in her first batch of O’Level exams far exceeded any that any of her teachers expected. But not only her results have changed. She is a confident, sparkling young woman who makes others happy by caring for them. She is still pursuing her dream of becoming a nurse, and is busy working in GEMS teaching remedial classes with creativity and passion as she studies for the next set of exams later this year. Her family are very proud of her and she is the only one who has gained any kind of further education. She wants to give back, both to the school and to her country and she is a shining example of the transformation that a real education can give. She is able to think, she’s creative, she’s kind and compassionate, she works hard at every task that is given to her and she is able to manage herself both academically and emotionally.
A student like Khushi gives us hope and assurance that at GEMS, we are doing the right thing, we are working for the transformation and freeing of minds of the people of Bangladesh, one student at a time.