For an organisation like BRAC, the implications of using AI to better understand clients needs has limitless potential. Imagine the students from our 20,000 schools getting customised feedback on their learning needs. With our vision centres in place, aiming to complete 1 million eye check-ups in the next two years, an Aravind-esque project is not a distant reality to provide better support to medical professionals.
A total of 47 Bangladeshi development organisations, edupreneurs, social innovators and accelerator programmes joined BRAC's social innovation lab for an intense 90-minute sprint, this September. We brainstormed on how our education system can work for our future, and how we can solve the existing roadblocks.
According to the Pareto principle, 80% of the world’s wealth is in the hands of 20% of the people. Even if more resources are created, the distribution of the new wealth will follow the same rule. This rule does not only work in economics, but it also applies in science and sports for the prediction of results, and in computer engineering for simulation and testing.
You may have read the news today. A teenager was harassed on her way back from school. A housewife, raped and murdered. Just the other day, you read about the rape of an eight-month-old baby. Do these stories bother you? Or did you fold up the newspaper and sigh in relief thinking, “At least my daughter is safe.”
Waiting at an airport on my way home from a trip to Malaysia, a man walked up to me hesitantly and asked if I could help him fill out his immigration card. He was a Bangladeshi man in his mid-40s. While filling out his documents, we started talking and I learned that he was on a migrant worker’s visa and used to be a chef at a resort. When I asked him if he was headed home for a vacation, he informed me with a stoic expression that he was being deported for being Hepatitis B positive.
By the time we reached Rangoon Tea House – a fabled place mentioned in many travel literature- it was raining hard. The country representative of BRAC in Myanmar was taking me out to a legendary destination. We met his friends at a table with a fan whirring above with the blades shaped like palm leaves. Ancient black and white movies were projected on the wall with no sound; the silent movies contrasted with the bantering voices in the large room as people chatted and laughed.
Taking on the challenge of reaching out to children of families who face social exclusion, BRAC’s education programme has reached out to the children of sex workers. My visit to a school in Douladia showed me what it means to work with a group that is socially neglected.
About two dozen shoes and sandals had been arranged in a neat circle outside the classroom of a community-based school run by BRAC in Afghanistan. This school in part 13 of Charikar town, Parwan district is not a formal one; it is part of a programme that takes the classroom to the community, allowing children – especially those still out of school – to easily access early education.
“I couldn’t help but teach – it was the only way I could manage time and space to get my own studies done,” says Habib with a wide grin. He was enjoying my reaction as upon hearing this, the biscuit I was having dropped from my hand. Habib is from the first batch of students to receive BRAC’s Medhabikash scholarship. He is now a lecturer at a private university in Dhaka, and he looks nothing like one.