Dubai: Dubai Cares is building a secondary school in Bangladesh in memory of Sufia Akter, a Bangladeshi nanny who died saving four Emirati boys from drowning two years ago, officials said.
Akter, who worked in the UAE as a nanny with an Emirati family, was swept away in the sea after she bravely rescued four Emirati boys in her care, aged between six and ten on October 24, 2014. Sufia drowned before the arrival of emergency services, despite the bold efforts of the children’s father who jumped into the water to save her.
The school is being built at Bhata Para, the village where Sufia was born and raised, and where her family still lives.
Following the tragedy, Dubai Cares, under the directives of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has been campaigning, with the support of the UAE Embassy in Bangladesh and the Embassy of Bangladesh in the UAE, to honour Sufia’s bravery with an education project in her village.
After extensive consultation with BRAC, Bangladesh’s largest NGO and a trusted partner of Dubai Cares, Dubai Cares has unveiled its plan to construct and support the secondary school.
The foundation stone for the school was laid on May 10 and the construction of the school will be complete in a year.
The new secondary school, the only one of its kind in Sufia’s village, will provide education to children, particularly young girls, living in the village of Bhata Para in the Sunamgonj district of Bangladesh.
‘Hope from tragedy’
Dubai Cares will also fund the school’s operational costs for five years after the completion of construction. The six-year intervention will generate both immediate and long-term benefits for the community of Bhata Para, especially young girls who cannot afford to continue their education.
Discussing the importance of the school construction and support during his visit to Bhata Para to lay the foundation stone, Tareq Al Gurg, chief executive officer of Dubai Cares, said: “Out of the devastating tragedy of this story comes great hope, the construction of the secondary school in Bhata Para will forever be remembered as a symbol of the courage of Sufia. For the first time, children in Sufia’s village will have access to secondary education and by the sixth year, the school will be entirely self-sustained.”
He added: “This will be of demonstrable benefit to the long-term career prospects of children living in Bhata Para, particularly young girls who have previously been denied equal access to education due to monetary, societal and cultural barriers. Through this school, Sufia’s legacy will live on through at least a generation of educated and inspired young boys and girls in Bangladesh.”
He said that Dubai Cares has decided to name the school after Sufia to express its deepest gratitude for her sacrifice.
Dr Saeed Bin Hajar Al Shehi, Ambassador of the UAE to Bangladesh said: “The UAE has achieved an advanced position globally in the field of philanthropic and charity efforts. It is a highly generous humanitarian gesture of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to give his directive to Dubai Cares to establish a school in the village of Bhata Para in Bangladesh, the birthplace of nanny Sufia Akter. This humanitarian initiative will undoubtedly contribute to strengthening bilateral relations along with serving the common interests of the two countries.”
Dubai Cares’ effort in Bangladesh will be implemented in partnership with BRAC, reaching more than 3,200 children across six years. The proposed school will start functioning initially as a junior secondary school by providing education for classes 6 to 8. After three years, the school will turn into a fully functional secondary school which will also provide education for children in grades 9 to 10. By year six, the secondary school will be self-funded to provide a sustainable educational resource for the children of Bhata Para and surrounding areas.