Design For Good: Floating Schools

Traffic congestion. Soared commodity prices. Lack of accommodation.

These are few of the many problems that we, Bangladeshis rant about everyday. We discuss about these, we complain, we get frustrated. And then we carry on with our lives, only to repeat the process again.

Bangladesh, being low-lying and nestled on a mesh of rivers, is frequently affected by floods. Each year millions of people living in rural regions get entrapped by the natural disaster; they face unprecedented suffering. Villagers are left without electricity, without access to clean water supply and other basic amenities. Education, a one way ticket for many of these poor families to break the cycle of poverty, is disrupted during the floods. However, a great design was introduced to turn the water into an ally. Someone did find a solution to this problem, thus helping to shape brighter tomorrow.

A Bangladeshi organization called Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha introduced a simple yet effective alternative; solar powered boats that could be used for anything, starting from homes, schools, training centres to health care offices during floods. The floating schools are an adaptation to adverse conditions, created to help change lives, to find a feasible answers to a persistent issue.

The floating schools, designed by Mohammed Rezwan, are equipped with internet, laptop and a small library to facilitate learning. The boats are designed to adjust to any equipment configuration and to protect them from bad weather conditions. Additionally, students are rewarded too; upon regular attendance, students enrolled in here can get flood warnings and solar powered lamps for free. There is floating library too, with 1500 books, 4 solar powered computers and CD/DVD players, reaching out to the community to gain literacy and knowledge. Moreover, floating clinics ensure that basic health care needs of the community is taken care of.

The same boats are used after school to provide trainings to school children’s parents and other adults in the community; they learn sustainable agricultural techniques like solar water farming, basic accounting, business loans and any other skills to ensure greater income. During the monsoon seasons, when vast areas of land are submerged, and millions of people are left homeless, the floating boats can also act as flood shelters.

The organization has come up with flood-resistant sugarcane and rice, three types of solar lamps, using the design of traditional lanterns and a battery charging boat, that makes weekly visits to villages to allow residents to recharge their lanterns, thus rising to the challenge.

Mr. Rezwan started experimenting in 1998 and could successfully build the first floating school in the year 2002. Three districts in the Northwestern region of Bangladesh, Natore, Pabna and Sirajganj experienced the benefits of floating school first hand.

This organization stands as an example of turning geographical barriers into bridges, leading to a lifelong education. It has designed to make lives of the millions of people of Bangladesh easier, when hit by the flood. We too can seek inspiration from it, to look for answers to difficult problems that we face as a nation everyday.

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