Church schools lauded for encouraging reading

Top winners in Dhaka competition show keenness for extracurricular activities

Church schools lauded for encouraging reading
Students from Church-run schools in Dhaka receiving prizes from Muhammed Zafar Iqbal on Jan. 21
Raphael Palma, Dhaka, Bangladesh

January 25, 2011

Two students from a Church-run school won grand prizes in the book reading competition from among 30,000 students in 100 schools in Dhaka.

Tenth grader Shastika Barua, a Buddhist, and Shahjar Nahrir, a Muslim, from the Holy Cross Girls’ High School in Dhaka bagged Dhaka-Nepal airline tickets along with valuable books as awards for reading the highest number of books.

Twenty prominent academic figures including Muhammed Zafar Iqbal, a renowned Muslim computer scientist and popular writer of children’s books, presented books to the other winners of the competition.

Barua and Nahrir were among over 200 students from four Church-run schools in Dhaka and 5,000 students and parents attending the prize awarding ceremony organized by the Bishwa Sahitya Kendra or World Literature Center on Jan. 21-22.

The center was established by Abdullah Abu Sayeed, professor and Ramon Magsaysay award winner, over a decade ago.

It offers classes on world literature for higher secondary students and also provides every book needed for those classes. For secondary and junior school levels, it operates a nation-wide reading program and provides books for the students. In 2007, it had 500 schools under this program, and over 100,000 active student members.

The two winning students from Church-run schools show that Catholic schooling not only focuses on formal education but also on extracurricular activities.

Although there are non-Church-run Dhaka schools in the top bracket, guardians and students show a clear preference for Catholic schools.

“Missionary schools provide quality education and emphasize extracurricular activities. They also give lessons on character development and values,” said Hosne Ara Begum, a Muslim parent, who hopes to have her son admitted into a Church-run school.

Catholic schools produced various national and international figures including Nobel prize laureate economist Amartya Sen, alumni of Church-run St. Gregory’s High School and Kamal Hossain, an international lawyer and alumni of Notre Dame College in Dhaka.