06 June 2008, Dhaka. BRAC strongly believes that it is the responsibility of the state to ensure quality primary education for all. BRAC does not believe in the privatization or commercialization of primary education. In response to recent reports and articles in the media regarding the pilot programme initiated jointly by the Government of Bangladesh and BRAC, we would like to clarify that the aim of the programme is to improve the standard of education at selected government and registered non-government primary schools. BRAC has not been given any control over the management of these schools.
The objectives of the pilot programme are to increase attendance, reduce high drop out rates, raise course completion rates to over 80% and improve overall quality of teaching and learning at government and registered non-government primary schools in 20 sub-districts of 9 districts. This will be done by providing teachers with skills training, making school management committees more active, organising periodic parent-teacher meetings as well as regular head-teacher-led discussion forums for all teachers. All activities under this programme will be carried out with the full involvement of the management and teachers of the schools. It may be mentioned that BRAC has, over the past three years, conducted an experimental programme to improve the capacity of government primary schools in 6 subdistricts of Sherpur district. In light of the significant experience gained through this programme, the current pilot programme is being undertaken.
In the 36 years that have passed since its inception in 1972, BRAC has established itself as one of the largest and most successful NGOs in the world. BRAC’s groundbreaking interventions in poverty alleviation and empowerment of the poor have been successful in bringing about significant changes in the socioeconomic landscape of Bangladesh and beyond.
BRAC’s education programme has played a significant role in supplementing and reinforcing the formal education system by creating access to schooling for disadvantaged children who have dropped out of or have never enrolled in formal schools. More than 1.2 million children are currently enrolled in the 37,500 BRAC primary schools across the country and over 3.8 million students have already graduated, over 90% of whom have moved on to formal schooling at the secondary level. In 2007, the pass rate of BRAC school students in the government conducted class 5 completion exam was over 95%.
We hope that the experience and knowledge gained from the aforementioned pilot programme will be helpful in improving the overall quality of education in Banlgadesh.
30 May 2008, Dhaka. A group of three British MPs visited several BRAC projects in Gazipur and Dhaka city as part of a week-long study tour to Bangladesh to learn about efforts to combat tuberculosis (TB) and poverty. MPs Annette Brooke, Liberal Democrat – Mid Dorset & North Poole, Kerry McCarthy, Labour – Bristol East, and Marsha Singh, Labour – Bradford West, visited a birthing hut operated by BRAC’s Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health programme in Dhaka city’s Korail slum on Thursday.
The MPs also paid a visit to a BRAC school in Korail where they spent time talking to the students and teacher. Following her visit to the Korail BRAC school, MP Kerry McCarthy said, “I was struck by the scope and extent of BRAC’s work and particularly enjoyed my visit to the BRAC school…the children were delightful and very keen to demonstrate their English language skills! I would like to congratulate BRAC and their work to alleviate poverty in Bangladesh.”
On Wednesday, the MPs also visited a BRAC village organisation in Gazipur, where they observed BRAC’s microfinance activities and met with a BRAC health volunteer. The MPs then visited a BRAC community health forum and an antenatal care clinic and was able to observe various activities under BRAC’s groundbreaking TB Control Programme, including Directly Observed Therapy – Short Course (DOTS) for TB by a health volunteer, a TB outreach smearing centre and TB and external quality assurance laboratories. “The success of the TB programme in Bangladesh is impressive and must be maintained. It is a model that could be translated and implemented effectively by other countries,” observed MP Annette Brooke.
“This is my first visit to Bangladesh and I have been inspired by the energy, dynamism and optimism of the Bangladeshi people, including the poorest of the poor” said MP Marsha Singh, “Bangladesh faces many daunting challenges but in BRAC has a national NGO to be proud of. The scope, extent and reach of BRAC is staggering and its grassroots work is so impressive and effective”. He added, “I will leave Bangladesh with a feeling of immense hope”.
23 May 2008, Dhaka. BRAC Founder and Chairperson, Fazle Hasan Abed, was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by Columbia University in the United States for his comprehensive approach to fighting poverty, the powerful model of social change that he has introduced and his abiding commitment to serving the poorest and most vulnerable. Abed was conferred his degree by Lee C. Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, at its 254th commencement ceremony, held on Wednesday, 21 May in New York.
“One of the world’s most effective humanitarians, you have transformed the lives of millions through the work of your organization, BRAC. Your vision is audacious, the scale of your work inspires awe and the results you have achieved are a stunning example to the world of our potential to successfully fight poverty and save lives. You have been recognized by many organizations for your commitment to improving life on this planet; we are honored to acknowledge you again today.” reads his citation.
Columbia, one of the world's leading universities and a member of the Ivy League, was founded in 1754, making the University the fifth oldest institution of higher education in the United States.
Abed founded BRAC in 1972 to help rehabilitate returning refuges from India to newly independent Bangladesh. Later, BRAC changed its focus to long-term community development. Today, BRAC is the largest non-governmental organisation in the world and its programmes in education, health, economic and social development and human rights and legal services cover a population in excess of 100 million. In addition to numerous national and international awards, Abed was previously awarded degrees of Doctor of Laws by Queen’s University in Canada, Doctor in Education by the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and Doctor of Humane Letters by Yale University in the United States in recognition of his work with BRAC.
15 February 2008, Dhaka. BRAC celebrated its 35th anniversary on Friday, 15 February 2008, through an evening of music and entertainment at the Dhaka Army Stadium in Bangladesh. Nearly 15,000 members of the BRAC family traveled to Dhaka from around the country to take part in the festivities.
BRAC Founder and Chairperson, Fazle Hasan Abed, inaugurated the event. Highlights of the festivities included performances by popular artists including Runa Laila, Momtaz, Kumar Biswajit, Syed Abdul Hadi, Samina Chowdhury and Salma. The event also included dance choreography by Lubna Mariam and dance performances by Ria and Sohel. Popular television personality Abdun Noor Tushar hosted the event as the master of ceremonies. Specially designed interactive games and raffle draws were included to engage the audience.
The event was organized to pay tribute to the commitment and decades of hard work of BRAC’s staff in poverty alleviation in Bangladesh. Due to space constraints, only the oldest of BRAC’s over 56,000 full-time staff, 60,000 schools teachers and 70,000 health volunteers were invited. Originally scheduled to be held on December 15, the 35th anniversary celebrations were postponed in order to pay tribute to the victims of Cyclone Sidr and because some 3,000 BRAC staff members were dedicated to full-time post-Sidr relief and rehabilitation efforts.
02 January 2008, Dhaka. Speakers at a view-exchange meeting on Thursday stressed the need for setting up a ‘centre for journalism’ in the country to provide training and education to working journalists and to carry out research.
The meeting on opening of ‘centre for journalism’ was held at a city hotel where BRAC University officials and local journalists from both print and electronic media were present. Golam Kibria, Manzur Elahi Shibli and Zahid Hossain of BRAC University briefed the local journalists on various issues such as in-depth and investigative reporting. USAID has initiated a four-year project styled ‘Promoting Governance, Accountability, Trans-parency and Integrity’ designed to assist Bangladesh to combat corruption.
Under the project, Institute of Governance Studies and BRAC have been selected to set up the ‘centre for journalism’ in Bangladesh based on a thorough assessment of 16 local organisations. The officials suggested imparting training on issues like investigative reporting in print and electronic media, reporting and modern technology, laws, regulations and ethics, budget and financial reporting and community radio. Issues relating to media report, research on journalism and working atmosphere, in-depth and investigative reporting and fee-based training, certificate, diploma and credit courses for undergraduates also came up at the meeting for discussion.
A non-partisan advisory board to provide long-term guidance to the centre would be formed through discussion with media managers, senior reporters and academics, the officials said. Local journalists also agreed with BRAC officials on the necessity of training, academic courses and researches and urged to assist the media houses in developing journalism outside Dhaka with ensuring congenial working atmosphere. They also stressed need for maintaining rules, laws and ethical values in journalism with objectivity and introduce online, basic and advance courses on journalism, information technology and English language for the journalists outside Dhaka, taking into account their academic, financial and professional limitations.
21 November 2007, Dhaka. Two senior officials from BRAC, a Director and Programme Head, travelled to Afghanistan today as part of BRAC’s ongoing efforts to secure the release of Area Manager Nurul Islam, who was kidnapped two months ago.
BRAC has been communicating continuously at the highest levels with the Afghan authorities concerned in order to ensure the safe return of Nurul Islam. Both the Governments of Bangladesh and Afghanistan have extended their full support to BRAC in this matter.
Nurul Islam (37) was abducted in the Logar province on 15 September 2007. He had been working in Afghanistan for more than two years as a BRAC Area Manager.
21 November 2007, Dhaka. BRAC is carrying out extensive relief operations in 2,537 villages in 60 worst affected upazilas across 11 districts of Bangladesh. More than 2,500 BRAC staff and 13 medical teams are engaged in providing round-the-clock relief and medical care to the victims. Immediately following the cyclone, BRAC launched its emergency relief programme, initially allocating Tk. 7 crore. Two senior BRAC Directors are supervising relief operations on location.
To date, 30,318 affected families have received relief packets from BRAC. BRAC plans to reach 150,000 families with relief by the end of next week. Each relief packet contains rice (10 kg), biscuits (2 packets), lentils (2 kg), potatoes (2 kg), salt (1 kg) and oil (250 mg).
13 BRAC medical teams are working in the remotest of the affected areas to provide medical care to the victims and have already treated nearly 2,000 patients. In addition, BRAC health workers are also providing support to 122 government medical teams. In order to overcome the critical shortage of potable water, the medical teams are also working with the local communities to clean ponds and are distributing water purifying tablets to make the pond water safe to drink.
BRAC is also collecting donations and contributions of relief materials from home and abroad at the BRAC head office in Dhaka in order to support the expansion of its relief efforts. The BRAC offices in Dhaka have also initiated a clothing drive to collect winter clothes for the victims.
19 November 2007, Dhaka. Cyclone victims are in immediate need of potable drinking water as the cyclone has flooded tubewells with saline water and also ruined surface water sources. Without access to clean drinking water as well as proper sanitation facilities, the risk of waterborne diseases has become critical, especially for children. Currently, BRAC staff on the ground providing immediate relief and medical care are distributing water purification tablets to be used with pond water. Pond cleaning drives and insertion of deep tube wells will also be initiated following emergency relief. To alleviate the current potable water crisis, BRAC is seeking assistance in procuring water desalinating systems.
BRAC Head Office staff have also initiated a clothes drive in Dhaka to collect winter clothing for the cyclone victims.
19 September 2007, Dhaka. The body of BRAC Area Manager Abdul Alim (37), who was killed by unidentified assailants in Afghanistan, has been buried today at his village in Tangail. Senior BRAC officials from the head office and regional offices attended the burial.
The body of the deceased was brought back in to the country from Kabul on an Emirates Airlines flight earlier this morning, at 11 am. Family members of the deceased and senior BRAC officials received the body at the Zia International Airport and escorted it to his home in the village of Digore, in Ghatail upazila of Tangail district. The namaz-e-janaza of the deceased was held at a local mosque and attended by thousands. His body was then buried at 5 pm at the family graveyard.
A gayebana janaza for the deceased was held at the BRAC Centre in Dhaka after zohr prayers which was attended by all BRAC head office staff.
Mr. Alim was shot to death by a group of unidentified gunmen in a village in the Badakshan province of Afghanistan on 12 September. Mr. Alim joined BRAC in 01 January 1996 and had been working in Afghanistan as BRAC’s Microfinance Programme Area Manager since 16 November 2005. His wife, Shahnaz Naznin, was also working for BRAC’s Health Programme prior to their marriage. Mr. Alim left behind his wife and two young children, Abdullah Al Nafiz (7) and Abdullah Al Noman (4).
18 September 2007, Dhaka. BRAC Founder and Chairperson Fazle Hasan Abed has expressed great concern regarding the kidnapping, in Afghanistan, of BRAC Area Manager Nurul Islam and appealed for his immediate release. He has also expressed deep sadness at the recent killing, in Afghanistan, of BRAC Area Manager Md. Abdul Alim.
In a written statement sent last night from New York where he is attending a series of conferences, Mr. Abed has said, “I am extremely concerned at hearing the news of our co-worker, Nurul Islam, being kidnapped in Afghanistan on Saturday and appeal to his abductors to release him immediately. The Government of Bangladesh has been extending all possible collaboration in our efforts to secure his release by contacting relevant authorities in Afghanistan. I also request the authorities in Afghanistan to do all that they can to secure the release of Nurul as early as possible. BRAC will cooperate fully with the Afghan authorities and provide all necessary support. I wish to convey my sympathies to Nurul’s family as they face this ordeal and assure them that BRAC will do everything in its power to bring Nurul back to safety at the earliest.
“I am also deeply saddened at the killing of another co-worker, Abdul Alim, in Afghanistan last week. The killing of Alim, who was in Afghanistan to work for the country’s development, was senseless and I sincerely hope that the Afghan authorities will quickly bring the perpetrators of this horrible crime to justice. I send my deepest condolences to Alim’s family and my thoughts are with them at this time as they come to terms with this terrible loss. I assure them that BRAC will do everything in its capacity to provide them with continued support.
“We have an extremely dedicated and courageous team of Bangladeshi development experts working in Afghanistan to ameliorate the suffering of the Afghan people. I salute them and their unwavering commitment to serve humanity.”