PEOPLE

 

Creating an educational revolution in Bangladesh
Hoping to provide Asian children with quality education

Mr.Atsuyoshi Saisho

Bangladesh is said to be the poorest country in Asia. Saisho created a revolution in education. He has let some fresh air in the educational divide in Bangladesh by producing students who have passed elite universities exams from BOP (bottom of pyramid; very poor class of people), which was considered impossible.

Saisho started to challenge the educational issue in Bangladesh upon reading the book, “Do you know Grameen Bank?” (Hiromi Tsuboi, Toyo Keizai Shimbun). Grameen Bank as well as the then CEO, Muhammad Yunus, won the Nobel Peace Prize for its contribution to building an economic and social infrastructure for the poor in 2006. “I lost my love when I was a second year student (he laughs), and I was thinking I should not remain an immature man. I was engaged in volunteer activities, but I was feeling limitations about it, so I was impressed, thinking this was what I wanted to do.”

Saisho immediately took action. He went to Bangladesh, met Mr. Yunus, and soon he started up a project within the Grameen Bank Group, staying in Bangladesh and withdrawing from university temporarily. While touring local villages, he witnessed the educational divide between children in cities and those in rural areas. Children in villages couldn’t get sufficient education because of the shortage of teachers, alienated from career paths to enter universities. Saisho remembered his days preparing for entrance examinations. “If we use a system like a preparatory school DVD classes, we may be able to offer quality classes to village children.”

As a man of action, Saisho immediately went to Grameen Bank and made a presentation on “e-Education Project,” but it was turned down. They thought setting up Internet in poor villages and having video classes were simply impossible. Saisho didn’t give up, and started to execute the project on his own. The first class was to link a village school with the lab of Tokyo Gakugei University via Skype. Children who attended the class were very happy! The result was recognized by Grameen Bank, which officially launched the e-Education Project.

Saisho worked very hard. He looked for people who could extend financial support, gathered famous lecturers of preparatory schools in Bangladesh who could appear on DVDs and collected about 30 second-hand PCs to be used in the village via Twitter. Children of villages became able to attend video classes of top-notch prep schools free of charge, using old PCs in shabby huts. “Blackouts occurred, and it was so hot that I was covered with sweat. The environment was very poor, but I was impressed with what technology could do.” The village has consequently produced students who passed the entrance examinations of Dacca University considered the Bangladesh version of the University of Tokyo and other famous universities.

What supported Saisho was the presence of local partner. “It is the guy called Mahin who entered Dacca University from a poor village. Thanks to him, we could produce students of universities difficult to enter from the first year. Mahin encouraged children of the village who was about to have their ardor dampened. “I also did a sort of open campus at Dacca University with Mahin.” Actually looking at the ‘target,’ children summoned up all their forces. “Above all, the presence of Mahin who had entered Dacca University from a village served as support for the village children.”

The following year, he made an attempt to expand the project and with Mahin, tried to incorporate the project, which turned out to be a failure. The e-Education Project temporarily faced the danger of breaking up, and Saisho was really troubled, but now he has started to run ahead again. What strongly pushes him is what Yunus said: “DO IT! DO IT! GO AHEAD!” In the future, I want to collaborate with partners like Mahin in a different country and improve educational infrastructure for children in Asia.” As a pioneer, Saisho will soon make another step forward to higher ground.


▲Mr.Atsuyoshi Saisho


▲Village children in a DVD class


▲Serious eyes looking at a PC


▲In July 2011, he participated in a contest sponsored by SIFE, an international NPO, together with WASEDA teammates including Daichi Usui, representative of the participating organization (School of Political Science and Economics) and attained victory. Saisho earnestly talked about his activities in Bangladesh. In October, they will attend the world contest to be held in Malaysia.



◆ Profile

■Atsuyoshi Saisho
Born in 1989. Third year student of School of Education. Graduated from Ryogoku High School. In the spring of his third year at high school, his deviation value indicating his academic level was 28. He started to take video classes of a major prep school and entered WASEDA. At the age of 19, he became the first Japanese coordinator of GCC, research laboratory of Grameen Bank. In 2010, he started up the e-Education Project and was inaugurated president. He won both Grand Prix and Watami Special Awards of Everyone’s Dream Award 2010. In 2011, he published “DO IT! DO IT! GO AHEAD!” (Kirakusha) describing his story of development up to the start of the e-Education Project.

 
From 2011 September 29th issue (No. 1255)