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Time and again Bangladesh has been hit by severe flooding. In particularly heavy monsoon seasons, up to two-thirds of the country can be flooded. During such floods, most schools close because children and teachers can no longer reach them. This has led Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha to aim to transform the country’s rivers from barriers to communication channels. The initiative sends out 54 boats, each with space for around 30 people, to pick up school pupils from their homes, teach them on the boats before returning them home. The boats are solar powered and are connected to the internet. This has the positive side effect of enabling the children to take home fully-charged solar-powered lamps, which means that they even have light to do their homework and for other household activities. Every day, three lessons take place on the boats. The organisation focuses on traditional primary education and a ‘river curriculum’, which includes environmental protection and water conservation, among other issues.
Besides schools, the boats also serve as health clinics, libraries and training centres for adults. The training sessions offered on the boats focus on issues such as understanding climate change, solar energy, human rights and sustainable agriculture. Finally, the initiative is largely financed through the production of solar power.