AOB partners with BTABC in establishing tribal village schools in remote hill areas. DeCruz Tripura, supervisor of these schools, graciously agreed to talk about the present educational challenges and vision of BTABC (Bangladesh Tribal Association of Baptist Churches):
How many schools are operating this year, and what scope do you see for expansion?
Tribal people intensely feel the need for education. Parents, children, and village leaders are desperate for schools. Adults are cheated in the bazaar because they cannot read. They cannot read official documents and worry that they will lose their land. Parents want their children to function well physically, socially, and spiritually.
Recently a kidnapper convinced many tribal parents that he was starting a boarding school; parents innocently gave their children, seeing this as the answer to their concerns. Recently another shyster took Taka 3,000 from a number of impoverished tribal parents, saying the money would enable their children to attend a tribal boarding school in Dhaka. Fortunately, the police captured both of those men.
We are running 70 primary schools, Kindergarten through grade 3. This year we have begun schools among three new tribal groups: Mru, Kyang, and Khumi. Scores of other villages have requested schools, but we do not have funds to start more. Because bamboo is scarce these days, villagers are building wall-less school buildings to enable their children to study. As you can imagine, they will have wet classrooms during the coming monsoons.
How do you hire teachers, and what are they able to teach?
The high school graduates of our tribal boarding school in Lama can apply for teaching positions. We tell them we want teachers to be godly examples in the villages to which they go. They are not merely being hired for academic ability; they help in local churches and outreach, ministering to the whole child and indeed the whole community. We are not able to pay our teachers much, but villages supply rice and vegetables for them.
Our educators teach children all subjects that the government requires: math, reading, writing, social studies, sciences, and Bible. Our tribal students take the official yearly exams. Of course, we have dreams of adding sports, arts, and even computer skills in the years ahead, though God will need to provide if this is His will. We have also discussed annual spiritual retreats for the students; we want them to be godly young people in their communities.
What do you see as the greatest challenge to the village school program?
It is difficult to pinpoint a single “great challenge.” Needs and opportunities are far greater than we can undertake. Only God can solve these problems. We seek His wisdom, His guidance, and His provision.
Language learning is another major challenge. Tribal children grow up in communities in which Bangla is not the spoken language, however they must study in Bangla. Mother-tongue primers are being prepared for publication; Lord willing, we will soon be able to use these.
How can people partner with BTABC in this exciting opportunity?
People can sponsor a village school for only $50 per month by contacting AOB Human Resources.
One time gifts can also be used to help meet major needs such as:
- roof these one-room schoolhouses with tin
- fund production of mother-tongue primers and early readers
- provide sports equipment and 1 storage box for each school
- purchase 1 laptop computer that teachers could take turns hand-carrying into their schools
Above all, pray that God will be honored in and through our village school program.