At least 1,136 persons lost of their lives in the Rana Plaza collapse, most of them were readymade garment factory workers. Other than the personal trauma of losing their loved ones, many families were thrust into multiple crises. The children who lost their parents were no longer being able to go to school. But the Meril-Prothom Alo Savar Support Fund scholarships have proven that just a little support can change lives.
This scholarship is being provided to 20 children of garment factory workers and employees who were killed or injured in the Rana Plaza disaster. They are now studying, going ahead to fulfill their dreams.
Hasan Mahmud and Farzana Akhter are a brother and sister who have received this scholarship. Hasan wants to be a banker and Farzana, a physician. Their father Forkan Howladar died in the Rana Plaza collapse. Hasan has been receiving the Meril-Prothom Alo Savar Support Fund scholarship since he was in Class-VI. He now is a student of Class-XII at Gulshan Commerce College. Farzana is in Class-V at the T&T Ideal Girls High School in Mohakhali, Dhaka.
Hasan and Farzana live with their mother Jesmin Begum in Mohakhali. Jesmin Begum tells Prothom Alo, “I would not have been able to educate my children without this support. I have poor health and run the family by sewing at home. They are studying on scholarship.”
The Meril-Prothom Alo Savar Support Fund was formed on 26 April 2013, two days after the Rana Plaza collapse. The previously scheduled Meril-Prothom Alo Awards 2013 event was being held that day and it was dedicated to the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster.
Funds for the Rana Plaza disaster victims began to be collected right then and there at the event. Various artistes and others came forward with donations and the Tk 5.4 million (Tk 54 lakh) was collected that day to start off the fund. Later people from all walks donated to the fund.
A total of around Tk 22.4 million (Tk 2 crore 24 lakh) was deposited in the fund. Of this, around Tk 7.15 million (Tk 71 lakh 50 thousand) was used for rescue work and medical treatment. Another 10.05 million (Tk 1 crore 50 thousand) was used for rehabilitation purposes. Then a fixed account was opened with Tk 5 million (Tk 50 lakh) of the remaining amount. This is being used to provide the scholarships to the 20 children of the victim families.
Papiya Akhter is studying on this scholarship in Class-X at the Scholars International School in Savar. When she lost her mother in the Rana Plaza collapse, she was a student of Class-III. The Meril-Prothom Alo Savar Support Fund took responsibility of her education from then. Her father Zahid Kazi, a rickshaw-puller, tells Prothom Alo that he is determined to bring his daughter up well.
Also with support of the Meril-Prothom Alo Savar Support Fund scholarship, Miskatul Maria is studying in Class-V, Tanzir Ahmed Class-VI, Mridul Hossain Class-VIII, Mehdi Hasan Class-IX, Jannatul Ferdous, Mahbuba Rahman, Kamaruzzaman, Nayan and Khadija Akhter Class-X, and Tanzila Akhter, Monica Akhter and Sharmin Akhter in Class-XII. Redwan is studying for a Bachelor’s (Hons) degree in finance.
Other than them, Sumona Huq did not continue studies after SSC, Raima Jahan has a stipend for her studies for an Honours degree and Hasan Imam is doing a diploma course. Three other children of the victim families will be given scholarships in their stead.
Prothom Alo Trust coordinator Mahbuba Sultana said, “The objective of this scholarship is to arrange the education of the children of workers who were killed or injured in the Rana Plaza disaster. The students will be supported up till the Master’s level.”
* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir