Located in the largest industrial area of Chittagong, Bangladesh, the school Naziria Naymia Mahmudia Madrasa is a beacon of hope for the low-income workers who are unable to afford education for their children. Currently, over 1,000 students are enrolled at the madrasa (the Arabic word for ‘educational institution’) that provides free education for the underprivileged.
Anthony Salcito, Vice-President of Education at Microsoft, presents the second runner-up award (Poverty category) to Hafez
In recent years, under the watch of Principal Hafez Allama Mohammad Mohiul Hoque, the madrasa has transformed dramatically. With the assistance of the Government of Bangladesh and the British Council, he launched a digital literacy programme ‘Connecting Classrooms’. To promote the rights of girls and women to pursue education and work, Hafez created a women’s-only ICT course.
In 2012, the school won the British Council’s International School Award. In 2014, Hafez and two colleagues were recognised as top educators, and were invited to the Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Barcelona, Spain, making them the first from their country to attend.
Hafez shares his thoughts about attending the global forum from his office in Chittagong.
This was the first year that the Learn-a-thon activity was held during the forum. You had to team up with other educators to design an education programme in response to a pressing issue related to one of the Millennium Development Goals: Poverty, Sustainability or Gender Equality. Your team was awarded second runner-up in the Poverty category.
My team was made up of five nationalities; we had members from Lebanon, Poland, Panama and Ecuador, plus me.
For three countries at least—Bangladesh, Panama and Lebanon—we face the same problem of students having to drop out to support their family livelihoods. This happens to 13-15 percent of the students at my school. Our project “GO BANGO” focused on how we could alleviate the problem by getting students in other countries to work on Bangladesh’s challenge. The idea is to get students from other countries to think about poverty in general, and extrapolating solutions to their own context further down the road.
Can you comment on a few best practices you learnt during the forum which could benefit your work in Bangladesh?
The forum showed what the future of work, education and living would be like. I learnt new teaching methods, including 21CLD (21st Century Learning Design) to help students develop critical skills needed in the modern workforce. I don’t think I will ever forget this memorable week!
Three things I learnt:
- Collaboration across institutions and borders is becoming increasingly important
- Using the right technology and pedagogy helps students improve learning outcomes
- Teaching and learning can be fun as well; it could be project- or game-based learning
You were selected because of your school’s unique curriculum, including having more IT training than what the national curriculum calls for. Can you tell us more about it?
The students at this madrasa have never used computers before. We first started introducing IT into the curriculum through Connecting Classrooms, a programme by the British Council, which got students in our school and schools in the United Kingdom to learn how to use Microsoft tools. The students were then able to share ideas and culture via Skype. The government provided us with some computers to set up an IT lab.
For students from 6th to 12th Grades (11-22 years old), we teach them the standard IT curriculum implemented by the Ministry of Education. On top of that, we provide extra IT training for teachers.
We’re also running a women’s empowerment project where we have a women’s-only IT course that is open to students from other schools, colleges, madrasas, polytechnics and universities in Chittagong. Through this programme, we have trained over 200 women. In addition, we are conducting trainings for educators and principals from the rest of the country; they get to learn 21CLD, Windows and other new technologies.
How else are the students using their IT skills?
We’ve partnered schools in other countries, so our students are now using Skype to communicate with each other. Most of the students, especially ours, have limited abilities to travel, let alone capacity for social mobility. Such interactions allow them to gain deeper understanding of alternative social and cultural realities, and improve their critical thinking and communication skills.
What are your future plans for the school?
We are trying to expand our outreach to include more students and provide more support to students from lower-income households. I’m also working with Microsoft on providing peer coaching on IT skills for fellow educators.