Promoting education through funding

Promoting education through funding

Educational funding is an option available to pupils worldwide for supporting their education financially through various schemes and methods. It can be provided by both public and private sector entities, as well as through individual engagements or involvements like part-time jobs. It basically refers to the financial support that is extended to the students for advancing their education. Educational funding can be of the following categories: sponsorships, scholarship, educational loans, educational grants, part-time jobs, and research fellowships. The stipends and scholarships are provided at primary, secondary, higher secondary, undergraduate, and post-graduate levels, and may be accessed for both long and short term purposes. Numerous educational trust funds exist in Bangladesh, which are constituted under The Trusts Act, 1882. These entities extend scholarships and research grants to students and researchers enrolled indifferent educational and research institutes of the country. 

The Ahad Family Education Fund (AFEF) is one such trust fund in the private sector domain of Bangladesh that has been in operation since 2006. It has awarded as many as 217 scholarships to Bangladeshi students, mostly pursuing undergraduate education at various public and private universities of the country, between 2007 and 2022. About 22 per cent of the scholars have been medical students, around 14 per cent engineering students, almost 11 per cent have been scholars of agriculture science and the remaining recipients pursued other disciplines of science, social science, arts and commerce. An interesting feature of AFEF is that its patrons Allan and Maria Myers were recipients of the highest civilian award of Australia, while Allan Myers AC, QC is the current Chancellor of the University of Melbourne in Australia. On the other hand, the chairperson of the AFEF Board of Trustees Dr Mahiuddin Abdul Ahad is a renowned physician cum surgeon now resident in Melbourne, Australia. The founding Executive Director of TIB Barrister Manzoor Hasan QC OBE, renowned businessman Shahedul Islam Helal, and the well-known chartered accountant Farhad Hussain FCA are also serving as members of the Fund. Another unique feature of the Fund is the range of its contributors, which include many distinguished citizens and professionals from Australia, Bangladesh and the United States of America (USA). 

The AFEF is basically run through its website, where announcements are made regarding scholarships on an annual basis. It also has an office with a few staffs in Gulshan, Dhaka, where interviews of applicants as well as sanctioned scholarships are administered. The Fund awards scholarships on merit to Bangladeshi students who are unable to complete their studies due to financial hardship, and a particular focus has been on assisting poor female students. Till now, about 52 per cent of the scholarship recipients have been females, who have received assistance for completion of their courses of study at undergraduate and post-graduate levels. At the present juncture, there are over 60 students who are receiving financial aid for continuing their studies at various colleges and universities of the country. As the founder of the Fund Dr M A Ahad noted, "It is an overwhelming and often emotionally challenging task to select the right students for the scholarship from so many deserving students - who otherwise would be deprived of an education and would not be able to achieve their dreams". 

Comments and acknowledgements by a few previous recipients of AFEF scholarships deserve mention here. A medical graduate Trishna Chakraborty notes, "My educational pursuits would not have been easy without your generous donation. Thank you for supporting me towards reaching my fullest personal and professional potential". Another scholar Shuvro Sen recalls, "I completed my graduation and post-graduation from the University of Dhaka with the support of the AFEF scholarship from 2012 to 2015. After completing my studies, I was employed at BRAC University as a Research Associate until August 2021…. I truly believe that without the scholarship from the Fund, it would have been difficult for me to complete my studies and pursue higher studies". Md. Imran Hossain, a nutrition and food science graduate from Patuakhali Science and Technology University notes, "It was almost impossible to continue my education without the help of the scholarship. The Fund has not only helped me financially, but also regularly looked after all the aspects of my study". Sayma Nowshin Chowdhury, a graduate of the Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department of Dhaka University recalls, "The scholarship assisted me to continue my studies without any hardship". And after joining as a Lecturer at the Department of Fishing and Post-Harvest Technology, Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, a former scholar of the Fund Subrata Kumar Ghosh wrote, "This was my dream come true. I don't know how to express my gratefulness to Ahad Family Education Fund. … it cannot be expressed in words. You made me indebted". 

The AFEF is inspired by the national award-winning headmaster Al-Hajj Jalal-ud-Din Ahmad of bygone era, who had dedicated his entire life for educating the underprivileged children of his locality. He had established Kamal Ataturk High School in Daganbhuiyan, Feni, as its founding headmaster during the British era, and later served as the highly successful headmaster of Feni Pilot High School from 1951 to 1968. After retirement, the renowned headmaster spent his limited resources to educate meritorious students, especially those whose educational prospects were constrained due to insufficient funds. The AFEF is dedicated to his memory and his legacy of promoting universal access to decent education for the poor. 

Dr Helal Uddin Ahmed is a retired Additional Secretary and former Editor of Bangladesh Quarterly.  [email protected]

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