by Farina Noireet
CHITTAGONG - With a twinkling smile, celebrity magician Ulfat Kabir, flourishes his wand, and hey, presto! a dazzling chain of handkerchiefs appears from the sleeve of his ruby jacket. The classroom audience is entranced; wide eyes in tiny faces follow his every move.
Similar scenes are set to roll out in WFP-supported schools across Bangladesh this year, under the new Enter-educate Magic programme. It involves magic shows using conjuring tricks to raise awareness of the benefits of school meals, to help kids develop healthy behaviour and to deliver nutrition and education messages.
“I want to learn magic too”
At a show in the remote Chittagong Hill Tracks (CHT), the magician makes a bar of soap appear out of nowhere and amid gleeful laughter tells the children about the importance of handwashing for personal hygiene. With another flourish, a pot of water begins to bubble, to tell them how boiling drinking water can prevent disease.
“I’m going to tell my parents that we should all drink boiled water” said Rimon Dutta, 9, a student of class 3, who has two other siblings at home. “And I want to learn magic so that I can show and teach others all the important things I’ve learnt!” he added.
Encourage children to stay in school
The WFP resident magician underlines the benefits of school meals, the importance of nutrition, and the role of education in life. He discusses school feeding and explains how the High Energy Biscuits the youngsters are given at school help reduce short-term hunger, increase concentration and improve learning ability. Through this scheme, WFP aims to boost enrolments and attendance in pre-school and primary education and reduce drop-out rates among families that are extremely poor.
Magician moved by response
Magician Ulfat Kabir said he felt the children had brought out some of his best ever performances. “It moves me greatly, when I see the effect my words and actions have on these wonderful, bright children. I am deeply grateful to WFP for giving me this life-altering opportunity,” he said.
“These magic shows, talking about personal hygiene and social skills in an entertaining way, help us to reinforce and instil positive health behaviour,” said the head of the school, Parul Rani Sikder.
After a successful pilot scheme in 2009, WFP teamed up with The Kazi Shakil Foundation (KSF), to implement the Magic scheme. In 2010, the scheme will cover around 30,000 children in 100 schools across the country.