The Underprivileged Children's Education Programs (UCEP)-Bangladesh is a leading national non- government organization (NGO) that has strived for decades to help impoverished Bangladesh households to have a better life through education for their children.
The origin of UCEP-Bangladesh was founded by 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 millions of tornado-hit distressed families in the southeastern part of the country.
Chyene had just completed establishing the clinic when the 1971 war of independence broke out and Bangladesh was born. The destruction in the wake of the tornado paled in comparison to the tragedy of human misery left by the war, and the newborn nation faced greater crisis.
Along with his relief operation, Cheyne worked with the Bangladesh's Directorate of Social Welfare in planning an educational program for the poor and homeless children.
Starting in 1972 on the premises of Dhaka University, the largest public university in Bangladesh, with only 60 students, Cheyne's UCEP-Bangladesh is now a hub of over 45,000 distressed urban working children who either did not enroll in school or dropped out before completing their primary education.
Cheyne was buried in a cemetery in Dhaka after his death on Sept. 15, 1986 but her organization continues to inculcate marketable skills and provide employment support to children of poor households through general education and vocational training in close collaboration with industries and employers throughout Bangladesh. "It works for the social and economic uplift of the distressed working children of Bangladesh," Aftab Uddin Ahmad, executive director of UCEP-Bangladesh, told Xinhua recently in an interview.
Ahmad, a retired brigadier general of the Bangladesh Army, said the main objective of UCEP programs is to improve the socio- economic status of the urban poor and support industrial growth by generating skilled manpower. "In Bangladesh, there are about 8 million working children. And there are a huge number of dropouts from schools. UCEP is working to eliminate child labor basically, and help them achieve economic improvement for themselves and for their families," Ahmad said.
Ahmad said that UCEP provides a package of services in general education, technical training as well as job placements.
UCEP's Integrated General and Vocational (IGV) schools follow the national curriculum up to grade eight in abridged forms. A student can complete each grade in six months instead of one year, the usual time required in formal schools.
The IGV education is followed by six months of pre-technical education as a preparation for entering the Technical Schools of UCEP.
Apart from the educational programs, UCEP also implements an advocacy program on child rights, which plays a significant role in creating awareness within the communities of issues relating to child rights and importance and benefits of vocational education, Ahmad said.
UCEP currently operates 52 IGV schools and 10 technical schools with a spectrum of 21 trades in seven metropolitan cities and towns in Bangladesh. These schools totally enroll about 45,000 distressed working children with gender parity. "They are also given education for financial management, sexual reproductive health and rights in our schools. And after completing their six months of preparatory stages, the students are brought into the technical schools where they are given technical trainings in about 21 trades," Ahmad said. The UCEP model of education has helped brought about a remarkable change in the socio-economic condition of thousands of working children that resulted in a positive impact on their families over the last decades.
With its unique model of human resource development, UCEP plays a significant role of creating skilled manpower to eliminate poverty from the country and thus gains a global reputation. It was listed twice in the UN ESCAP's "Compendium of Centers of Excellence in HRD Research and Training".
UCEP is committed to pushing its education program to new heights. "In future, we have plans to enlarge the operations of UCEP schools, so that we can cover more and more children throughout Bangladesh," Ahmad said.