Bangladesh has a great cultural and ethnic diversity with over 40 indigenous groups living within its borders.
The Bede are a nomadic group whose members traditionally live, travel and earn their living on the myriad of rivers that travers the country. Around 500,000 Bede people live across Bangladesh today.
Alina Akter, only two and a half years old, has no fear of the snake during a snake charming session with her father.
The Bede travel by boat for most of the year, living from traditional trades such as snake charming, magic shows or production and sale of lucky charms and herbal medicines.
From childhood, Bede children learn the traditional business from their parents.
In a suburb of Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, 200 Bede families have established a small community called Choto Omarpur. Most of the houses are empty and locked for many months at a time while the owners are out on the rivers, taking along their babies and toddlers. Only a few buildings are occupied, where older children stay with relatives or friends who are unable or unwilling to travel.
Six year old Sumi lives in Choto Omarpur and attends a primary school managed by BRAC, Bangladesh’s largest development organization.
Formal education has not played a big role in the Bede’s traditional lifestyle, and school attendance is low. A study conducted by the Grambangla Unnayan Committee in 2006 showed that 95 percent of Bede children do not attend school.
When WFP started providing vitamin- and mineral-fortified biscuits in Choto Omarpur, many children like Sumi started coming to school to get the nutritious snack in the morning.
School feeding not only encourages children to come to school, it also gives them energy to concentrate on their studies when they are in class.
The high-energy biscuits are fortified with essential vitamins and minerals and help children meet 67 percent of their daily micronutrient needs.
Rubina Akter, Sumi’s class teacher, helps Sumi with her letters.
Rubina explains that she is now very happy with her students as they are more motivated and focused on learning: “Now they do what I ask for and teaching has become much more interesting for me.”
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