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Shidhulai Brings Education by Boat

Five months of monsoon season in Bangladesh brings with it at least two floods a year. In riverside areas, these floods make many roads impassable, preventing travel, school attendance and access to resources for long periods of time every year. To overcome this ecological obstacle, a local nonprofit organization, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, is implementing an innovative solution.

Shidhulai runs a fleet of boats that bring education, libraries, waste management, computer education, internet access and information on sustainable agriculture and healthcare to the Chalanbeel region of northwest Bangladesh.

Shidhulai operates by building and converting boats, equipping them with books and technology, powering the boats using solar energy and bringing these resources to communities through waterways.

Shidhulai has 88 boats, with 42 currently operating as boat schools, mobile internet-education units and healthcare clinics. The remaining 46 boats are being converted into housing options for climate refugees and flood victims called “Climate Shelters.”

Each boat is equipped with solar panels on its roof, which generate the electricity needed for the boat’s operations. Surplus energy is distributed between local families through solar lamps. The boats are fitted with multi-layered waterproof roofs, windows for ventilation and flat plank floors, all made in the region using locally available materials.

In addition to their fleet of boats, the organization has developed a Central Library, Technology Center and Regional Headquarters in their Shidhulai complex, which is easily accessible by waterways. All of its services are free of cost, with the exception of its mobile phone calls and bicycle pumps.

Since its inception in 1998, Shidhulai has served 70,000 students, and hopes to reach 100,000 more in the next five years. By turning the region’s waterways into pathways for education, information and technology, this grassroots organization has brought new life to northwestern Bangladesh.

– Tara Young

Sources: Shidhulai, Jolkona, Washington Post
Photo: Architcture as Auesthetics