Photos by Chantelle D’mello and courtesy of ROTA
Intense renovations on one of the oldest secondary schools in Qatar took place this week under the leadership of local charity Reach Out To Asia (ROTA).
The project to overhaul the Bangladesh M.H.M School and College in Abu Hamour, which is being entirely funded by Occidental Petroleum Corp. Qatar (Oxy Qatar), involves painting, decorating and refurbishing six kindergarten classrooms.
ROTA falls under the Qatar Foundation umbrella, and QF is also overseeing an additional project at the school to create a kid-friendly covered playground and racetrack.
Currently, the school, which was founded in 1979, caters to over 1,100 students, mostly from the local Bengali community.
But due to its age and lack of funds, the school has been struggling to upgrade its facilities to meet evolving education goals – for example, lacking multimedia equipment.
For the past week, volunteers have been painting, sanding and decorating the classrooms in different colors.
Today, over 50 volunteers had gathered to help out with the project. One of them, 17-year-old Aseel Mohamed, is a recent graduate of the Doha British School.
Speaking to Doha News, she explained the progress made:
“It’s a big difference to what we saw when we first came. Classrooms were drab, windows lacked curtains, and the decor was minimal. The walls had holes and chipped paint, and it didn’t look like a school for young children. It looked abandoned.
We stripped the place down and completely changed it up. We’re bringing in new furniture tomorrow to replace the wooden tables that sat five-six children that were here before.”
Overseeing the volunteers has been ROTA, which took on the project as part of its many Ramadan initiatives. The charity also hired an interior designer to decorate the classrooms, said project spokeswoman Hooriya Hussain.
When asked about the choice of venue, she told Doha News:
“ROTA has previously worked with the Bangladeshi school on literacy projects. From there, they built a relationship with the school. So when it came time for the Ramadan project, after the initial assessments were made, this was the school that was chosen to be a beneficiary. It’s the first time that ROTA’s undertaken a school renovation project locally, and so far, it’s been great!”
Previously, ROTA has worked to renovate homes on the outskirts of Doha, she added.
In addition to OXY Qatar, Qatar MICE Development Institute, a local events company that focuses on conferences and business tourism and also falls under the QF umbrella, has sent in staff to oversee the project.
Decor aside, the Bangladesh school faces many problems.
Unlike other institutions that have independent sponsors or funding from embassies and organizations, the kindergarten to grade 12 school survives entirely on the nominal fees collected from students.
Classrooms are spartan, lacking amenities like smart boards, new furniture, blinds and multimedia facilities.
Speaking to Doha News, elementary school head Anjuman Rafique, who was on site partaking in the renovations, said:
“While we are incredibly grateful for the work that ROTA has put in, there are other areas that need help too. We need trained, experienced teachers who stick around, we need multimedia facilities like educational DVDs, and projectors, a separate library for younger kids, but above all, we need a computer lab.”
Rafique oversees over 400 children from kindergarten to Grade 3.
She said children in these grades only get one computer class a week at the sole lab that the school currently houses. This is because priority is often given to older students in Grades 10 and above for whom computers are a necessity.
A grade 2 teacher who was also helping decorate the classrooms today added:
“Our other classrooms too need help. Kids in Grades 1 and 2 too require the same fun, vibrant atmosphere as do kindergarten children.”
Regardless, Rafique, whose children completed middle school at the Bangladesh school, said that the students are still performing well.
“We have great results in the board (standardized) exams. Our subjects are taught in English, and our students shine. Aside from curriculars, we put on numerous other products like skits, dances and shows. It’s a community that has been growing for the past eight years that I’ve been here (as headteacher).”