The Ajala Project presents Korvi- a philanthropist changing the world.
At 21, Korvi Rakshand left home to find a solution to provide education to the most rural and remote areas of Bangladesh. JAAGO Foundation, his initiative has educated more than 2200 children and built more than 13 schools.
What made you decide on start this project, what did you seek to achieve?
Bangladesh is a developing country where many people are stuck in the vicious cycle of poverty. Coming from a well-off family, I knew how privileged I was. I always asked myself the question, ‘What would have happened to me if I were in their shoes?’ I also knew how lucky I was to get the highest quality of education from my family. Education ensured that even if my family goes broke someday, I would be able to earn my own living without falling into the trap of poverty. Knowing this, I knew how important education is to fight poverty, especially in a country like Bangladesh. This is why I started JAAGO Foundation to provide quality education for the underprivileged children of Bangladesh.
Why did you choose this particular time to start the JAAGO Foundation?
I was only 21 when I started JAAGO in 2007. Before that, I was too young to start something on my own without guidance. In 2007, thankfully I had few friends who believed in my vision. They encouraged me to pursue my dream. So with the belief that I can do it with limited resources, I started my first school in Dhaka’s Rayer Bazar slum area. The children from this area were my first students -they were deprived of the most basic human needs.
What are some lessons you have learnt since you started your project?
I have learnt a lot of lessons since i started the JAAGO foundation, but if I have to mention two or three then I would urge the young generation who are willing to start something of their own to find their passion first. It doesn’t matter what sector you’re working in, the sector you decide to work on should make you happy and fill you with a sense of fulfillment. It is important because the quest for finding your passion isn’t only going to help just you but you’re helping others by encouraging them to find their passion. Secondly, when you have found your passion, make a good team with people with similar mindset as you and follow the motto, “We is always stronger than I”. Make a plan with the support of your team. Lastly, always be ready to accept change! The journey my organization JAAGO has been through is tremendous, and this was only possible because I was flexible and ready to accept change when existing processes weren’t working. Keep in mind, “Change is the only constant and we should adjust with it”.
Does your project end or keeps going? What’s your next move from here?
JAAGO- the name itself is a wakeup call. It doesn’t have a destiny, it’s a journey. It doesn’t have an end, it’s a start. Changing the education system of Bangladesh is not a mission with a short timespan, it is a lengthy process and for me, my voyage is a lifelong one. My next move from here is to make the organization excel in all its objectives and ensure that this concept goes global so that children with impoverished background all around the world will have easy access to quality education. I also want to create a positive image of Bangladesh across the globe through JAAGO. Bangladesh isn’t only a country of natural disasters, political violence or terrorism, there are many positive things about us and I hope JAAGO will lead that change one day.
What message would you like to send to emerging change-makers?
Listen to your heart, identify your passion. Create a flexible team, make a plan and go for it. Every time you fail, you know you will have to find a new way to reach your goal.
What are some of the highs and lows JAAGO Foundation has experienced?
Highs and Lows are a part of a journey. I had to prioritize a lot of things to make my vision a reality. To make JAAGO happen, I had to leave the comfort of my home. Physically my family wasn’t with me when I experienced highs and lows with JAAGO, but I knew they were with me in spirit. I, along with a few friends, started JAAGO’s first school in the Rayer Bazar slum area in 2007 to provide quality English lessons for the underprivileged children.
Shortly after we started providing English lessons to the children, we realized this was not the most suitable medium to teach the children as they found the curriculum too difficult to comprehend. This challenge forced us-JAAGO, to introduce NCTB English curriculum in other schools in order to cater for the needs of underprivileged children. We further realized that the need for quality education is also more acute outside Dhaka city than inside.
Despite the lucrative remunerations and benefit package offers we provided to our teachers, they were not willing to move outside Dhaka city, due to the unfavourable environment outside the city. Another alternative was to employ local teachers, but this didn’t provide any solution either as they were not on par with the quality that JAAGO maintained with its already established schools in Dhaka. As a result, JAAGO thought of using ICT to reach remote areas of Bangladesh, by using video-conferencing technology, the geographical distance between with rural areas was no longer a concern. The teachers were now connected with rural classrooms outside Dhaka.
What kept you going, despite all the setback you experienced?
The Online school program started as a pilot project in 2011 and now my organization JAAGO has 13 online schools. There are still some major highs and lows everyday, but nothing unusual. Choosing a life filled with hurdles is not easy but the smiling faces of over 2200 school children and the enthusiasm of 22000 volunteers is what has kept me going up until now.
What would you have done differently? Looking back any regrets?
JAAGO Foundation has experienced significant growth in a very short period of time. This has been possible because I kept a learning attitude from the very beginning. There were times when I easily succeeded and there were times when I had to take a step back and reassess the repercussions of my actions. Thankfully, I have no regrets thus far in my life. But sometimes I do wish I had started JAAGO earlier if I had some guidance around that time.
There are many issues and conflicts around the world, if you were given the chance to change any of this issues which would you work on?
I firmly believe education is the biggest weapon to break the cycle of poverty around the world. I also believe lack of quality education is the root cause of many problems and conflicts around the world such as — unemployment, racism, terrorism. Education provides everyone an equal opportunity to change their financial as well as social status to lead a dignified life as a law abiding citizen. If I were given the chance, I’d make sure everyone gets access to quality education to create knowledgeable societies worldwide.
What makes you unique from other change makers around the world?
Every creation is unique. You cannot compare one to another but when it comes to my work, I think there are similar people who have the same passion. When I get invited in different seminars, conferences, I get to meet many people who went through the same journey as me, only their context was different. Their stories replicate my story as behind every achievement story; there are failures, hard work, passion and a number of sacrifices.
Is there a place you least expected kindness or hospitality?
I have always been very lucky to experience kindness and hospitality in anywhere i go and most of the places I have visited. However, the kindness and hospitality I receive from the students when I visit my schools every day is something that uplifts my spirit and gives me hope for the future.
Written by: Korvi Rakshand, Edited by: Bayo Hassan Bello.