Online school for Dinajpur’s poor children

At first glance, it looks like any other school with classrooms, teachers and a playground.

But on a closer look, one can find that unlike the conventional schools, here the teacher is sitting hundreds of miles away and giving lessons through a giant screen. And children, sitting on floor mats, are repeating after her the ABCDs of Bangla and English.

It’s an online school. Located in Bangkali, a remote village in Dinajpur, the school offers pre-primary education to underprivileged children aged between four and five years.

Highly qualified teachers from Dhaka conduct the classes while two more teachers remain present at the classroom to oversee the kids.

Grameenphone, the leading mobile phone operator of the country, founded the school in association with Jaago Foundation and Agni Systems Ltd.

Head of External Communications of Grameenphone Syed Talat Kamal said an online school is almost the same as other schools. The only difference is that this school is equipped with videoconferencing technology and high-speed internet connections.

“A teacher from Dhaka conducts the classes every day. So, the kids from a rural area get their basic education from highly qualified teachers,” he said.

Built on a 15-decimal piece of land, the school has 40 students, two classroom teachers and some support staffs.

Though Primary and Mass Education Minister Mostafizur Rahman inaugurated the school last Wednesday, its academic activities began three months ago.

“The school hours are from 8:30am to 12:30pm,” said Tuli Chando, a classroom teacher.

“The kids love the classes here and they are learning quite fast,” she added.

Four-year-old student Monalisa Akter said, “I love to come to school.”

Rabindranath Roy is happy that his son Bilas Roy is getting quality education at an early age. “I cannot afford to send my child to such a school that offers high-standard education. We all are really thankful to them [the founders] for the school.”

Now other villagers, whose children were not enrolled in the school yet, are waiting for the next admission session, which the founders say will begin next year.

Grameenphone first launched an online school in August 2011 in Gazipur with 80 students, said Talat Kamal. “Now we have 10 schools in as many districts with a total of 693 children studying in those.”