Juanna now dares to dream

Born in an impoverished family belonging to a disadvantaged ethnic community, Juanna Murmu was perhaps supposed to join her mother, a day labourer, at a very early age to eke out a living, like many others of her age from the community did. Poverty, for her, was so biting that the mere dream of going to school was an audacity she could not afford. However, life had a different plan for her in-store.

In the tiny overlooked village of Amnora in Rajshahi district lived Juanna’s day-labourer parents, Babul Murmu and Shantana Hasda. Fifteen years ago, the couple lost their homestead to land-gabbers and migrated to Adivasi Para village in Laxmihossenpur Union under Parbatipur upazila of Dinajpur. Juanna was the second among the three children they had. In search of a living, Babul and Shantana left home, leaving the children under their grandmother’s care. Shantana found work in Dhaka but her husband has not been in touch with the family since then.

Juanna was growing up to the age of starting school but there was no school in the village. There was one at a somewhat distant village but who would help her prepare the homework? Her grandmother was illiterate. It was under such circumstances, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) in 2015 started implementing its flagship programme ENRICH in her Union through Gram Bikash Kendra, a Partner Organisation of PKSF. As part of the interventions, an Education Assistance Centre (EAC) was set up in Adivasi Para village. Juanna and many of her age from the ethnic community were enrolled in the EAC, and started getting lessons that would prepare them to go to formal schools. Apart from learning textual lessons, they would also be taught lessons on ethics and values, sports and culture, etc, a combination of subjects that would help them grow up to be sensible, responsible, and ideal citizens of the country.

Three years have passed since then and Juanna now goes to the local Alghor Primary School. She always comes to class prepared with homework done properly, thanks to the EAC sessions she attends. She had such a solid foundation at the EAC that she now tops the 45-strong class in the merit list.

Asked about her dreams, Juanna says, “When I grow up, I want to be a doctor … The people of my community cannot afford to see good doctors when they are ill. When I become a doctor, I will be able to help everyone like us in their medical needs.”