Rishipara Mandir Paathshaala
Rishipara Mandir Paathshaala is a part of an education programme initiated by two friends, Christopher Lee Hesse and Markus S Favrus, who wanted to give back to Bangladesh after staying there for several years.
The school is run by Subornogram Foundation, a social organisation based in Sonargaon, which provides access to education for children in some parts of Bangladesh’s marginalised communities such as the river gypsies; fishermen and Dalit; cobblers; and the indigenous people in Bandarban, in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The school previously held only one classroom built of corrugated iron sheets with nominal openings allowing inadequate light and ventilation; it was expected to cater to the learning needs of 85 children aged six to 14 all at once in two shifts.
Coming together for the children
The community were positive about having a better study environment for their children. The participation and enthusiasm of the parents and the children in the design workshops was a source of encouragement to the design team. Some local people from the community worked in the construction team, which increased the sense of belonging to the project among them.
The new school building has one teacher and three classrooms cum library room running in two shifts to accommodate approximately 98 students. This new built environment has reduced school dropouts and encouraged a number of new students from the community locally known as Rishipara (i.e., low caste Hindu or sometimes the untouchables to some other communities) to enrol.
Community engagement during design
Design workshops were held at the initial phase with the community to promote a sense of ownership with the design, construction and future maintenance of the school. Interesting design ideas such as the Shahid Minar and flexible community area came from these workshops. During the construction process, the children visited the site frequently. A Paint Your School workshop was held where the children drew on the walls to increase their level of involvement with the project.
Community engagement during construction
To encourage and increase the scope of work for the traditional artisans who have been working with eco-friendly construction methods, the construction process of this school was mostly human labour-oriented. SAFE Bangladesh has been training artisans and reviving traditional workmanship for many years. The participation of the community alongside these SAFE Bangladesh craftsmen was highly emphasised throughout the construction process to increase the awareness of new intermediate and indigenous technologies, and for proper sustainable maintenance of the school in the future. Neighbours also contributed their specialised skills such as making mats and bamboo light shades. Community artisans sourced out local bamboos for construction.