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New dorm brings Afroja a new life


Afroja, 12.

When we first met Afroja and her family, about three years ago, Afroja confided that she hoped she could go to school more safely, and her parents shared in her wishes.

“We hope Plan will create opportunity for us and develop a good commuting system to school during the rainy season,” said her mother, Rowshan.

Like many girls in Hatibandha, Afroja struggled with a long and arduous commute to get to school. To complicate matters, her family’s been forced to relocate their home almost every year, due to flash flooding.

Dual panel of Afroja walking to collect water and studying outside as her family looks on.

At left, Afroja collects water at age 10. At right, Afroja studies at home earlier this year.

With limited resources available to her family, and as the eldest girl, Afroja was responsible for chores like collecting water or helping with cooking. Often it was difficult to find the time, as well as the private space, to study. But her drive to learn always pushed her to find a way.

“I love to go to school,” she shared when we checked in with her two years ago.

Today, a shift’s taken place in Afroja’s life: she now lives in residence at the new girls’ dormitory – and it’s totally transformed her every day.

“My daily life is completely changed,” Afroja, now 12, shares. Her mother, Rowshan agrees: “The most significant change in our lives is that my daughter is staying in the girls’ dormitory. It’s a safe and secure place that helps to continue her education.”

For Afroja, this testament translates to an even larger, more marked shift.

“I see changes in my parents and community. They now are positive minded towards continuing girls education, like my parents allowing me to stay at the dormitory. This is a big change,” she explains.

Two panel of Afroja smiling and walking from the dorm to her school next door.

Like anyone faced with a big change might, Afroja had some initial nerves about the transition.

“I missed my parents, sister and brother, but I got used to it and now I enjoy it,” she shares. “Our hostel superintendent takes care of us and I have no worries about going to school as the dormitory is adjacent.”

Afroja gets ready at the dorm bathroom; image also displays items in locker storage.

“I wake up early in the morning, wash my face and brush my teeth here,” says Afroja, who now has access to on-site piped water for the very first time in her life. She also has full use of amenities like the dorm kitchen, where she shares meals with her peers.

Two panel: Afroja studies intently and smiles with a peer.

“Since I have been staying at the girls’ dormitory, I have no problem with going to school every day. I like to recite poems and my favourite subjects are Bangla and Mathematics,” she shares.

And when Afroja does have a hard time with homework? A good study buddy is never too far.

“It is very convenient if I cannot understand or have difficulties with my study, because I can share easily with friends.”

Afroja and her friends laugh and run outside the dorm.

And with friends so close by, there is always time for fun!

“I play in the school playground with my friends. I have been enjoying having their company at the dormitory. I am happy to stay here,” she shares.

Indeed, being in such an enabling, social environment is not only having a positive effect on her dedication to her studies, it is also improving her confidence and outlook, while helping shape her dreams for the future.

“I admire my school teachers and I want to be a good teacher like them when I grow up,” she says. “Our teachers treat boys and girls equally, and I think we are equal.”

Afroja smiles at the camera, holding books in front of the dorm.

“I feel proud that I am part of the first batch of residence at the Teestakoli Girls’ Dormitory!”

“So,” as you can see, she concludes, “my life is changed totally.”

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