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Education on the Boat: CMS VATAVARAN 2019 Nomination Series ​

As climate change causes increasing problems in Bangladesh, boats fitted with desks and learning materials are keeping children in education.

Climate change is already taking its toll across Bangladesh, a densely-populated and impoverished country the United Nations has identified as among the most vulnerable to a warming planet.

Millions in the low-lying nation are being forced to adapt to overflowing rivers, rising seas and increasingly extreme weather in a country frequented by destructive storms and cyclones.

Twenty million people there could be made "climate refugees" by the end of the century, a UN panel has warned, turfed out of their homes as rivers swallow towns and seas encroach on coastal communities.

These climate forces are already reshaping lives by the hour. As much as 16 feet of riverbank can disappear in a single day, consuming everything in its path.

River erosion - though long a phenomenon in the delta nation - is rapidly accelerating due to climate change. Many have struggled to adapt as the rivers have turned, "wild and furious".

But elsewhere, local ingenuity is finding ways around the turbulent and unpredictable forces of nature.

In Chalan Beel, for instance floating schools chug along rivers and lakes swollen by floods, bringing education to students long denied a chance to learn in one of Bangladesh's poorest locations.

Today they run more than 20 "floating schools" in the Chalan Beel area.

Other charities have replicated the idea in different parts of Bangladesh, where the world's largest river delta empties into the Bay of Bengal.

Smaller models are equipped with desks, libraries and blackboards while more elaborate, twin-storey designs also boast slippery slides, monkey bars and swing sets for playtime.

Children even learn to use laptop computers, all powered by banks of solar panels atop the boats.

At night, once school is over, adults come aboard to learn new techniques for farming in an extreme climate.

Bangladesh has invested more than $400 million into a new special agency for adaptation projects, including flood embankments, floating farm technology and mobile water-purification stations.

Simple local innovations have changed lives in a generation in Chalan Beel.

For so many adults, who have spent their youth hemmed in on all sides by water as unpredictable storm surges and fast-rising floods made walking to the nearest school impossible, the floating school anchored near their home – are a symbol of hope for the children, no matter how the landscape changes in the future.

Their dream of educating their children, including their daughters, has come true!

Director: K M Taj Biul Hasan

Photograph Courtesy-

K M Taj Biul Hasan

La Paz Group/Abir Abdullah/ Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha

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