Posts tagged under BRAC
One of the more striking statistics associated with BRAC is that in Bangladesh alone they run over 24,000 primary schools and over 13,000 pre-primary schools. Five million children have graduated from these schools at a cost of only US$32 per child annually.
One of the main reasons that BRAC has been able to set and run more schools than many countries have, stems from their focus on keeping things simple. Faced with the realization that millions of children across Bangladesh were not receiving any formal education at all, BRAC has worked to provide a basic education to as many as possible.
BRAC primary schools only run from grades one to five. After graduating from BRAC schools fortunate students are able to shift into government-run schools and continue their education. Those who are not so fortunate have still learned valuable basic skills in reading, writing, and math. In many cases even this education is much more than anyone else in their family has received previously.
One of the most high profile, and controversial, poverty alleviation tools in BRAC’s toolbox is microfinance. Simply put, proponents of this method argue that without access to capital, poor communities will never be able to break out of the poverty trap. Since the standard commercial bank will not lend to anyone who cannot produce adequate collateral, and their nearest branch is often hundreds of kilometres away anyway, the only solution is to bring the bank to impoverished rural communities. Detractors argue that the high interest rates charged by microfinance lenders (BRAC says theirs are between 18 and 60) are exploiting those who can least afford to be exploited and the often uneducated lendees have no idea what they getting themselves into. In extreme cases people who are unable to pay back their loans might resort to suicide.
Dhaka is a flat city in a flat country. Sitting smack dab in the middle of the Ganges Delta which makes up much of Bangladesh, there are no hills or other natural geographic features to orient the visitor. Even Singapore with its 163.63 meter tall Bukit Timah has more geographic variety.
More tellingly, other than a couple of large hotels with familiarly generic names, the capital city of the world’s eighth most populous country is almost completely lacking in the corporate skyscrapers which are almost synonymous with East Asia’s modern metropolises. Forty years after becoming an independent country, this country of 142 million still has difficulty attracting large scale foreign investment.
Fittingly, one of the few tall buildings that manages to rise above the perpetual chaos of Dhaka’s street life belongs to BRAC, generally considered to be the world’s largest, and possibly most businesslike, NGO. In the developed world NGOs usually exist in the background, occupying a few square meters wherever they can find the cheapest office space. In Bangladesh they can occupy an entire office complex, complete with hotel, several restaurants, and an adjacent university.