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We need classrooms that unite, not divide

1299 427 Shaveena Anam

“Apnar ki kono savings acche?” I asked a slum dwelling beneficiary of a poverty alleviation project, to gather information for case studies that showcased the success of the intervention. One of the field officers who was accompanying me quietly whispered to me that the Bangla word for savings was shonchoy and then turned to his colleague to explain, “Apa toh English medium”. “Ah” he said, and everyone around me in the tin-shed home nodded in unison—my accent, clothes, my entire being making sudden sense to them. Embarrassingly, I had never come across the word shonchoy before. I had attended an English-medium school and had the opportunity to go abroad to study. My education had made it easier for me to keep up with the indie film watching, Derrida quoting, vegan burger eating hipsters at my liberal arts college, but when I had returned in 2011 and started working at an NGO, I was suddenly rendered unintelligent and unintelligible because I couldn’t hold intellectual conversations in Bangla with my colleagues. I hadn’t read the same books, watched the same films, or listened to the same music. During school, Bangla lessons had been confined to hourly classes, three days a week. We might have shared space in the same city, but we certainly didn’t share the same experience of Bangladesh. read more

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