Rising Stars

Korvi Rakshand’s initiative has laid the foundation for a more sustainable and developed Bangladesh. For the last 12 years, JAAGO has been providing free education to the youth population creating capable individuals and helping them realise their true potential. ICE Today had the opportunity to learn more about his exciting journey and how he plans to move forward.

Your initiative has created a positive impact in the lives of thousands of people. Tell us what inspired you to start JAAGO?

Back when I was in college, I used to travel a lot. One thing that stuck with me during these expeditions was that we, the Bangladeshi people, were deprived off of recognition and respect in every sector of the job market only because of our lack of proficiency in English and our inability to communicate properly outside of our country. This is why we are often unable to get our desired jobs despite having the skills; whereas people from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka are ahead of us, just because they have good command in English.

It goes without saying that Bangladesh has a lot of manpower and the way to turn them into human resources for the nation is through the power of education. If we were to properly educate our children, only then we would be able to change the future of our country. This realization tagged with my passion for helping people gave rise to a dream. From my school days, I was associated with small charity works.

Keeping these things into consideration, I began teaching English to 17 kids from the Rayerbazaar slum in a small room. I had not considered that they too wanted this small initiation to go further. However, after a certain amount of time had passed, these kids asked me what will happen afterward.

“Are we going to get promoted?” I remember them asking.
To create a sustainable future for these kids, my friends and I thought of forming a conventional schooling system. That’s how JAAGO began its journey in 2007.

You started JAAGO at the age of 21. What changes have you observed since the start of your journey?

I believe 21 is an age when we experiment with our career and try to figure out what we want to do in our future. Probably, that is exactly why society does not take a 21-year-old seriously. For that matter, even my parents thought this was just a phase that I was going through for fun. I remember them giving me the condition that I had to either choose JAAGO, my madness, or my family business. And here we are after 12 Years!

Korvi Rakshand
Founder
JAAGO Foundation

One of the biggest changes that I had observed was that of the opinions of the people in the communities where we taught. Their reluctance in giving their children to be educated without having to pay a penny was quite astounding. I mean it is natural for them to be wary, but they felt that education was not necessary for their children. Over time, these very people were encouraging their neighbors and friends to send their kids to JAAGO. Now, when we have a call for enrollment every year, there are long queues of people wanting to send their children to the JAAGO schools.

Throughout the different phases of any initiative, one faces different challenges. How have your challenges evolved throughout the years? How did you overcome them?

Back in the day, most of the people didn’t understand the concept of teaching underprivileged children in English. Where these children could not even consume 3 meals a day, learning English should have been the last thing on their priority list. Even the Parents of these children were scared and they didn’t want their children to continue. It took a lot to make people realize what our concept was. Even the people from the slums thought we were either child traffickers or that we would not be able to sustain. And I think it’s completely normal. In time, we overcame the obstacles and the greatest change that I observed was that so many people wanted to be a part of JAAGO and work towards the change.

NOW, WHEN WE HAVE A CALL FOR ENROLLMENT EVERY YEAR, THERE ARE LONG QUEUES OF PEOPLE WANTING TO SEND THEIR CHILDREN TO THE JAAGO SCHOOLS.

Today, we have overcome these but now, our struggle is with funding sometimes. Last year, our contract with one of our biggest supporters, Grameenphone, had ended and they could not continue on due to some changes in their corporate policy. However, we are grateful because many of the local companies are helping us.

JAAGO is currently supporting more than 3500 children across Bangladesh. How do you plan on broadening your reach and expanding your operations?

For us, it is quality over quantity. We don’t want to expand to the extent where we have to compromise the quality of our education. I think, after 12 Years, we have expertized on what we do. If our government allows us to collaborate with them, we will try to improve the schools which are struggling.

Tell us a bit about your long term goals and vision.

There are places in Bangladesh where people are still deprived of proper education. We dream of reaching these people, as for them the thought of going to schools, let alone achieve higher education, is a far fetched dream. We also want to make sure that the kids who are currently studying at our schools can reach their full potential and write their names in history.

What advice would you give to anyone who is trying to bring about a positive change to the society but has to struggle a lot/finding little success in their quest?

Rise against every odd. Whatever the situation is, don’t ever think of giving up. You only lose when you think you have lost.

Irfan Aziz is a Sub Editor of ICE Today magazine. He is a pug enthusiast who loves looking at memes, writing and sketching.