Underprivileged Children’s Educational Programme

Underprivileged Children's Educational Programme (UCEP) is one of the leading NGOs of Bangladesh. Its aim is to impart vocational training beside general education to poor and working children and to provide them with jobs. UCEP is one of the ESCAP enlisted human resource development, research and training organisations. Following the devastating cyclone of 1970, Lindsay Allen Cheiney, a volunteer from New Zealand came in this country with a package of British relief programme to extend health care services to mothers and children of the badly hit south-eastern coastal area of Bangladesh. Beside relief operation he took up an initiative to educate homeless and poor children. A 3-year long project, designed by him, was approved and the government of Denmark gave financial support to implement it. At the beginning UCEP established an educational institution for poor children and child labours following the model of committee schools. The UCEP model for educating the poor children lying outside school was cordially received by all concerned. In 1983, UCEP introduced training programme and general education with the setting up of a technical school in Dhaka. Later the educational activities of UCEP were expanded to Chittagong and Khulna metropolitan cities. UCEP was registered as a national NGO in 1990 under the Social Welfare (Registration and Control) Act, 1961.

UCEP established 30 general schools and vocational schools in Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna and Rajshahi in 2000. UCEP keeps constant contact with various employer organisations so that the students can get jobs after the completion of both general and vocational education. From 2003, UCEP has been providing jobs to their ex-students abroad. After completing education, so far 116 persons have gone abroad. UCEP introduced an advocacy programme on child right entitled 'Let children speak' in 2004. The main objectives of this programme were to prepare all children for schooling, to prevent all forms of oppression against children and to make the guardians aware of their wards. The programme is being run in 10 districts through 24 partner NGOs. UCEP initiated a small and medium investment project from 2005 for the students, so that they can start their own business with the capital to make themselves self-reliant after completing education from UCEP. So far 378 students have been qualified in the SSC vocational examinations under the Bangladesh Technical Education Board. Meritorious students who want to get higher education after passing SSC vocational programme, can avail a sponsorship programme to be a diploma engineer. The diploma engineering course was introduced in 2007 and so far 125 students completed the course under the UCEP sponsorship programme. In 2009, two subjects English in Action Programme-an intensive English language course and computer operation were introduced from class one in all UCEP schools. By 2010, UCEP expanded its activities to all divisional cities and Gazipur district town. This organization runs 52 combined (general and technical) schools and 10 exclusive technical schools, where 37,000 poor and working children are being imparted non-formal education. UCEP is also operating 2 technical schools in Dhaka with the assistance from Plan Bangladesh and one at Fatullah in Narayangonj in co-operation of the Department of Primary Education, Bangladesh.

The general schools of UCEP follow the curriculum and textbooks approved by the Text Book Board upto class eight. Books written and published by UCEP itself, are studied beside social science and general science upto class five. Before the admission education needs of the children are assessed in consultation with their guardians during the visit to the respective families. UCEP developed a general outline of the education needs assessment of the poor children of urban area based on the experiences gathered in past four decades physical surveys and research programmes. The operation and management system of UCEP schools have encouraged the local people to lend their support and assistance for education extension. UCEP schools have own strategy, which gave each of them a typical identity. Organizing short semester, use of condensed curriculum and participation of students are the main features of the UCEP policy.

All the schools run by UCEP arrange work for the children in slum and industrial areas. The teachers of UCEP schools keep liaison with the concerned family members and the management of workplaces so that the children can continue their schooling smoothly and effectively.

UCEP imparts vocational training to its students through 10 technical schools set up in Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Barisal, Sylhet, Rangpur and Gazipur. UCEP's vocational training course is low-cost and it helps a working child to learn basic technical education within 6 to 18 months to become a skill technician of any trade. UCEP introduced 17 vocational courses including Auto-mechanics, Welding and Fabrication, Machinist, Plumbing and Pipefitting, Industrial, Electrical and Electronic Control, Electronic Technology, Refrigeration and Ain-Conditioning off-set Painting Technology, Industrial Woodworking, Tailoring and Industrial Sewing Operation, Industrial Woolknitting Operation, Garments Finishing and Quality Control, Industrial Garments Machine Mechanics, Textile Weaving Mechanics, Textile Spinning Mechanics, Textile Knitting Mechanics, and Aid to Nurse. The prime objective of UCEP is to rear up the poor and working children of urban area as a skilled workforce by providing them with education, training and jobs so that they can take part in national development accelerating the country's socio-economic progress and the pace of poverty alleviation.

UCEP is run by a 7-member Board of governors. The board members are elected from the 34-member UCEP Association. The chief of UCEP is the Executive Director, who is assisted by two Directors and seven Managers. UCEP is comprised of 1676 staff members, of which 30 percent are women.

UCEP gets financial assistance from various foreign agencies. A consortium of overseas funding organisations provide monetary assistance to UCEP for specific projects. In 2010, the consortium members were Department for International Development-DFID of UK, Danish International Development Agency-DANIDA, Swiss Agency for Development Co-Operation- SDC and Save the Children Sweden-Denmark. Other funding sources of UCEP are financial contribution of UCEP beneficiaries, student sponsorship, service grant and land donated by the government, city corporations and individuals.

During 1972-2010, UCEP extended its support to 171,016 poor working children. Among those 95,026 completed primary education (class five) and 71,536 students passed class eight from general schools of UCEP.

So far, 38,318 children were given vocational training from 1983. In 2010, the number of registered students in all UCEP schools and vocational training centres stood at 37,000.

UCEP's annual budget allocation for the year 2010 was Tk 2,040, 873,66. ESCAP declared UCEP runners up twice in the competitions held among human resource development agencies of Asia-Pacific region in 1995 and 1997. [Shamsul Huda]