Well, actually, a new small shaako, or bridge…is being built just behind our school at Char Horish, in the far south of Bangladesh’s very wet delta region. With the floodwaters from Cyclone Fani, which caused havoc in eastern India in recent weeks, now subsiding, and the monsoon proper about to hit, there is a small window of opportunity to build a new bridge at the school to replace the rickety bamboo construction that has served the kids (and parents) of the district for the last years. The creek, about 20 metres or 60 feet wide and often swiftly flowing, took the life of one child last year, and this year almost cost the life of one of our school teachers and her baby when she slipped and fell into the water. Only the quick-thinking of family members who could hear her cries for help averted tragedy on that occasion, but when I visited the school with my PhD student Pratima Durga earlier this year, we were determined not to see another close call.
The shaako will be a superior model this time ‘round made of wood the locals call ‘mahogany’, but it isn’t quite up to that standard. However, it will be hugely superior to the bamboo model in place at the moment—and have a really low handrail to enable little kids (who often end up trying to get to school on their own) to reach. The bridge will cost around $1100 (Australian dollars), and as you can see from the photos, involves a bit of deep diving by the locals—and for the children, temporarily, taking a boat to school. Pratima’s family have pitched in to help pay for this project. Pratima’s PhD, which is on rural health access in Bangladesh, has brought her closer to the health risks of Bangladesh than she was planning—this is a country with literally tens of thousands of rivers and creeks the size of what we in Australia would call ‘rivers’! The project is being managed by the chief operations officer of Co-ID in Bangladesh himself. Riaz Hossen is literally getting down and dirty in Char Horish to ensure this project gets done, and done properly, before the rains really start.
Pratima’s family in Canada, Mauritius and Australia are contributing to the shaako funding.