It's not to publicise but to tell the story of a man - born in a marginally poor family unable to feed the children - has risen to the pinnacle of success, thanks to being student of a school run by Under-privileged Children's Education Programme (UCEP) in Dhaka 35 years ago. Hashem Masum who enrolled in the first batch of UCEP school is now Managing Director of Premier Apparels, a leading textile manufacturing and exporting company of Bangladesh. He was the first batch student of UCEP in 1978 and after a successful completion of academic career he switched to build his professional career in apparel sector. "UCEP has changed my life," says Hashem. "I had to, but my children don't need to be a child-labourer. My education in UCEP has changed my life," he added.
This Daily Observer correspondent recently visited a UCEP school in Mirpur section -2 and was amazed to see a large number of boys and girls from city slums studying under full attention and assistance of teachers.
Before enrolling, the children remained unfed or half fed. They worked as domestic aides or in small factories, auto repairing shops or in food shops. They toiled for survival. Their parents were too poor to send children to school.
UCEP imparts education to children in all forms - formal, vocational and technical. After finishing course here some students go for higher studies while others become skilled manpower ready to work in a variety of trade - garment factories, automobile workshops, electrical stores, nursing and others. Aziza Md. Aziz, Program Officer of Communication and External Relation of UCEP Bangladesh, told the Daily Observer, the Under-privileged Children's Educational Programme (UCEP) is a leading national non-government organization of Bangladesh.
"It strives to inculcate marketable skills among the hardcore poor urban working children and adolescents through Integrated General and Vocational education followed by Technical Education and on the job apprenticeship in close collaboration with potential entrepreneurs and enterprises/ industries throughout Bangla-desh," she said.
The origin of Underprivileged Children's Educational Progra-mme (UCEP)-Bangladesh is connected with a philanthropic New Zealander, Lindsay Allan Cheyne, who came to Bangladesh on a British relief mission in 1970 to run a mother and child health clinic for the millions of tornado hit distressed families in the south-eastern part of the country, she said.
When Cheyne had just completed establishing his clinic, then broke out the 1971 War of Independence. Bangladesh was born through a bloody nine-month war against Pakistan but it left a trail of devastation. It was much larger in terms of human and property losses than the 1970 tornado, she told the Daily Observer.
Amid immense human miseries and his duties in relief operation, Cheyne worked with the Directorate of Social Welfare in planning an educational programme for the under-privileged, homeless, poor children.
Cheyne began looking for a sponsor. The Danish government responded to his appeal and extended generous financial assistance to launch a three-year project. The government of Bangladesh provided a building to house the programme, Aziza said.
UCEP was created in 1972 as an International Non Government Organization. Initially UCEP worked with the concept of "community schools" to provide alternative schooling opportunity to the poor working children living in slums or on the streets of the cities.
However, UCEP was reorganized in 1988 and got itself registered as a national NGO under the Voluntary Social Welfare (Registration and Control) Ordinance, 1961.
Beginning in 1972 UCEP progressed steadily. By now it has grown into an established NGO having fifty three general schools and ten technical schools located in Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Sylhet, Barisal and Rangpur Division and Gazipur District.
Surprisingly, during the period from 1972 to 2011 UCEP extended support service to as many as 1,87,490 poor urban working children who enrolled as student in UCEP education system. Out of them 47,215 students completed technical education at UCEP
technical schools and para-trade centres.
The major fields, where UCEP trained hands are working, include automobile (repair, operation and maintenance), garments making, electronics (assembling and repair), printing and packaging, electrical, air conditioning and refrigeration (installation, repair and maintenance), textile (spinning, weaving and knitting), Aid to Nurse etc.
At present, a total of 45,000 children are pursuing Integrated General and Vocational Education at the UCEP Integrated General and Vocational Schools and Technical Schools.
UCEP is working in close association with industries and employers throughout Bangladesh.