Ashraful Goni tells how Switch – a youth social platform – aims to make Dhaka cleaner and empower students with information so that they could make more educated career choices
Bangladesh has been at a stalemate as far as progress in certain areas is concerned. The highly Dhaka-centric Bangladeshi society hardly has effective measures of empowering the youth in rural areas through spreading awareness or providing information about career possibilities. Moving on to other problems, Dhaka, on the other hand remains one of the dirtiest cities in the world according to many organisations. World Health Organisation ranked Bangladesh the fourth most air polluted city in the world last year. In order to speed up progress in different socio-cultural and environmental areas a group of young enthusiasts have been active with their organisation Switch since 2011.
Switch, which is a youth platform for social development consists of students from different universities including University of Dhaka, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Dhaka Medical College and other public and private universities. Md Muinul Faysal and some of his friends launched Switch on March 11, 2011 with an objective to create a cleaner Bangladesh, fighting poverty and spreading awareness among students about more educated life and career choices.
Since inception, the platform has made noticeable efforts in reaching its goals. ‘Our aim is to create a modern and poverty free Bangladesh through utilising the talent of the youth and thereby empowering them to become future leaders in different sectors of the country. Bangladesh is in dire need of socio-economic development, promotion of education, social and environmental awareness,’ Faysal tells New Age Youth.
The organisation also runs a magazine called Switch that comes out with the slogan ‘Switch on your creativity.’ Yakub Nabi, president of Switch informs New Age Youth that they publish editions of the magazine when they manage to collect enough sponsors to fund an edition. Even though they intended the magazine to be a quarterly, due to lack of sponsors they have been able to publish just four issues and the work for the fifth edition is underway. ‘The magazine is a direct step towards youth activation,’ says Nabi.
The magazine focuses on educational, motivational and social creativity. ‘Our magazine aims to motivate students for higher education, make them conscious about their aim in life and career. We publish skill-building materials and engage our readers in social activities,’ elaborates Faysal, the young editor of the magazine. They have distributed this magazine among high school and college students and teachers free of cost in five districts including Dhaka, which covered more than 50 schools and colleges. Workshops and seminars have also been arranged by Switch at different educational institutes to this end.
Switch has also run cleanliness campaigns. In 2011, their cleanliness operation started at Chittolmary, Bagerhat in three educational institutes. The final phase of this cleaning awareness programme started on August 26, 2013 at Government Laboratory High School, Dhaka. Last year the programme gained more momentum as they cleaned the Rabindra Sarabar area in Dhanmondi with help of the two city corporations in Dhaka. Students from 30 universities participated in the campaign. ‘Every Friday our volunteers have been cleaning Dhaka University to declare DU as a clean campus this year,’ says chief coordinator of Switch Riad Ali Khondoker. They also ran an eight-day cleaning campaign in Dhaka International Trade Fair and later at the Ekushey Book Fair.
Their plea ‘I promised I will not throw garbage here and there. You?’ pulled in hundreds of signatures. ‘Our target is to collect one million signatures this year,’ informs Faysal. Switch has installed some modern waste bins with the cooperation of Dhaka South City Corporation in the DU area and aims to gradually install more. In the next five years, Switch aims to make Dhaka 60 percent cleaner.
Other commendable initiatives of Switch include community library, school for children living in slums and providing medical assistance to underprivileged communities. Switch has already built four community libraries in remote areas. Most of the books were collected from DU dormitory and other donors. Social Action Club, Social Awareness Programme, Education Workshop, Computer Training and English Language Club are partners of their community library services.
The medical camp run by Switch reached out to communities in Char Danga, Dawangong, Jamalpur. They provided free treatment to 3000 people and also provided some essential medicine to them.
Swapnapuri, the school project run by Switch is located in Dhaka Udyan, Mohammadpur. The unprivileged children are encouraged in extra curricular activities besides regular studies and interestingly, some of the children have also acted for teleplays. The students are also taught hygienic lifestyle and the number of students has grown to 68 from 22. l