PRACTICES IN PROGRESS – Shidhulai’s floating schools are an important driver of resilience

Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a non-profit organization based in Bangladesh, earned the experts choice award in the 2014 Best Climate Practices contest, held on the theme of “Energy Poverty Alleviation.”

Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha operates a fleet of floating, solar-powered schools to ensure education for children in flood-prone areas of Bangladesh. As Mohammed Rezwan, founder of Shidhulai explains, “In recent years, flooding has become more severe. During the monsoon period thousands of schools are forced to close and many children miss school days to floods.” The floating boat schools provide children with uninterrupted schooling and access to solar-powered technologies like computers and lanterns. Furthermore, in addition to the full curriculum of government-run schools, the floating schools place special emphasis on local environmental education, in particular the preservation of the children’s own ecosystem and its biodiversity. Shidhulai also operates floating adult training centers and libraries, where adults can use the internet, read books and newspapers, and attend workshops on sustainable and flood-resilient agriculture.

Shidhulai is making rural communities in Bangladesh more resilient to the impacts of extreme floods both through its innovative technologies, as well as through its education program focused on preparedness and adaptation strategies. Since it was awarded the BCP Award in 2014, Shidhulai has continued its significant commitment and deepened its impact, serving close to 2,000 students on 22 school boats and over 100,000 adults on 17 training centers and libraries. And the people whom Shidhulai serves are emphatic about its benefits. “We get training on crop cultivation in submerged land during the monsoon. We also learn how to cultivate paddy, jute and vegetables and protect crops from pests without using harmful chemical pesticides,” said Bulbuli Khatun to a reporter from The Daily Star (Bangladesh). Another participant in the adult training workshops, Shahnaj Begum, says “The floating classroom trains us to grow vegetables and raise ducks and fish. We produce enough vegetables, fish and eggs. We eat and then sell them at the market. We can earn during the rainy season.” “This is the only library that I have access to,” says Mohammed Khaled; “The thing I like the most is that I get to read the newspapers online on time. At home, we get today’s newspaper tomorrow. Also, you get to borrow books for seven days for free.”

The Bangladeshi villages served by Shidhulai’s fleet are no longer the only beneficiaries of these innovative floating schools as Shidhulai’s model has spread to Cambodia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Vietnam and Zambia. It seems, however, that so far Shidhulai remains the project combining innovative adaptation strategies, solar energy, and education with the largest and most enduring impact.

(Image: Book library users.)