Many of the details were the same: the same 13 girls, the same month, even the same day. But it was a new year, and the difference felt by the girls, their families and Room to Read's Bangladesh team could hardly be greater. Where there was disappointment before, there was now excitement. It was the second time this cohort of girls had taken the public exam to complete 5th grade but this year, they had passed!
Room to Read has been supporting these 13 girls—along with 219 of their peers in the sandbar islands of the Sirajganj district in Bangladesh—since the last quarter of 2009 as part of the Girls' Education program. At the time, a little over half of the total 232 girls in the program were in 5th grade, while the rest were in 6th grade. The final exams for both grades were only two months away when Room to Read first started to provide the girls with tutoring support, and while the majority of them successfully passed and were promoted to the next grade level—13 of the girls did not.
It was an early blow to a program that was only in its first year of operations in Bangladesh. In 2009, the country team had inadequate time to support the poorly performing girls. But in 2010, that wasn't the case.
The first hurdle after the disappointing exam results was to convince the parents of the 13 girls to continue their daughters’ education. It was a struggle, since the parents had low confidence in their girls’ ability to pass on the second attempt. When the girls finally did restart their education in 2010, Room to Read assessed their academic performance and the results weren’t encouraging. Most of the girls were having difficulty with very basic early-grade mathematics, and the English language, for them, was synonymous with ‘scary ghost.’ Thus, the Girls' Education program team carefully designed intensive year-round tutoring support for the girls, and enlisted volunteer part-time educators to spend hours after school and during weekends to prepare the girls for their second chance at the exam.
Finally, the day of the results had arrived. After much anxious waiting, the schools finally confirmed that all of the girls passed! In fact, one student, Aklima, received a first-division score, which is rare for girls studying in such remote locations of Bangladesh. The joy felt by the Room to Read team was further multiplied after hearing the news that each of the other 219 girls passed as well, advancing to 7th and 8th grade, respectively.
It’s a small victory, but one that our team considers a lucky one because, in Bangladesh, "luck" means a combination of preparation and opportunity.
Room to Read Bangladesh thanks everyone who has supported these girls as they’ve worked to improve the conditions of their lives through education—they're very "lucky" to have your support!