History of Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation
Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation (BPF) is a non-profit, non-government, philanthropic organization started working with a handful of trained multidisciplinary team in May 1984. The strength of the organization has been in the development of evidence-based strategies for the prevention, early identification and optimum development of CWD’s, including those at-risk. BPF is providing services to the hard-core poor children with and without disabilities including those at-risk and their families, to optimize development, ensure educational and social participation, economic empowerment, within a safe and protective environment.
Before 1970’s and 1980’s there has been little concern for and understanding disabilities and has no comprehensive work has been undertaken for disabled children. Few aware and helpless mothers have requested Prof. Sultana Zaman, founder BPF to take initiatives for the children with disabilities. She came forwarded to establish the rights of CWDs.
BPF was founded in 1984, by a group of committed professionals and parents who had been working towards the establishment of the rights of children with disabilities (CWDs).
For over a decade the founding Board of Trustees, with Professor Emeritus Sultana Sarwatara Zaman as the general secretary, and the late poet and social activist Begum Sufiya Kamal as the chairperson, were able to raise the concerns of parents, communities, policy makers, educationists, and health and rehabilitation specialists at the national level to develop services for CWDs and provide support to their families.
The following paragraph gives a short account of BPFs major contributions to CWDs in Bangladesh during the past decades.
BPF is pioneered to identify, screening, diagnosis and rehabilitation for children with disabilities with multiprofessional team since 1984 in Child Development Clinic where Neuro-developmental and Psychological assessment was done.
The Clinical Neurosciences Center (CNC) was begun in 2007 with the aim of subsidizing the cost of health care and investigative facilities for children presenting with acute and long-standing neurological conditions such as epilepsy, motor disorders, vision and hearing difficulties, etc. The CNC has been piloting ‘Epilepsy Camps’ across the country to assist in the diagnosis of specific types of seizure disorders and epilepsies in remote populations in Bandarban, Sylhet and Kishoreganj. It has also, for the first time in Bangladesh, started portable EEG investigations in public hospitals (eg. Dhaka Shishu Hospital, Mirpur Shishu Hospital) to assist poor families to access technologically advanced and expensive services.
Kalyani Special of the BPF are widely known throughout the country for their ability to provide both formal and functional education to CWDs and their peers, mainly focused on poorest and disadvantaged communities. BPF has started a Special School named Kalyani in 1984 consisting of different units for the children with Intellectual Disabilities (1984), Cerebral palsy (1984),Autism Spectrum Disorder(2000),Visual Impairment with additional Disabilities(2002) and early intervention program. Children are trained by special education teacher and multiprofessional team. According to the children’s functional abilities an Individual Educational Plan(IEP) is prepared for each child. At the end of the year, children are reassessed and referred to Inclusive School of BPF and also advised for mainstreaming at the nearby school.
Older children are enrolled in pre-vocational classes followed by vocational training in Sheltered Workshop which is established in 1988.
The aim is to enable CWDs to function to the best of their abilities with peer support; to participate in sports, arts and cultural activities; to optimize their vocational skills; and finally be integrated within society as active members.
In the 1980s the questions we asked were: How do we find the children? What is the scale of the problem? And can disability be prevented? With the assistance of parents, academicians and the media, awareness programmes were launched through meetings, seminars and conferences. Simultaneously, and in collaboration with partners in developed countries and other developing countries, epidemiological surveys were undertaken in both urban and rural populations. This resulted in the development of the Ten Questions (TQ), ie, a brief questionnaire asked by Community Workers to mothers, which is presently acknowledged by the UNICEF and other agencies as the most valid and reliable tool for identifying CWDs in developing countries in a range of domains: ie, motor, vision, hearing, speech, cognition, behavior and seizure disorders. Poverty, poor maternal health, and malnutrition were identified as the most important risk factors for prevention.
In the 1990s the question was how do we reach rehabilitation services to outreach populations? The Distance Training Packages (DTPs), ie, pictorial packages providing strategies for functional improvement of the child was developed and evidence gathered through randomized controlled trials that if utilized optimally by parents home-based services for CWDs was comparable with centre-based services. Our evaluations also revealed that main cause of death of CWDs was lack food and nutrition, which was also the main cause for behavioral problems; that mother’s were at high-risk for psychiatric morbidity when services were too far to be reached.
BPF has been running Community-based rehabilitation (CBR) since 1996 which provides door to door services to reach the unreached and disseminate services to the root level to help disabled persons become self-reliant and improve their quality of life. BPF has schools and CBR programs across Bangladesh (in Dhamrai, Savar, Kishoreganj, Narsingdi, Faridpur, Barisal,Bhranmanbaria,) and three schools in Dhaka (Malibag and Mirpur).
After CBR program the question we asked was how to bring all CWDs within the educational system? The answer is Inclusive Education.
BPF has been running Inclusive School since 1999 following National Curriculum of Text Books (NCTB) but flexible for CWDs. Before that all teachers are trained with the assistance of UNCESCO materials and others. Inclusive program were integrated into the special education curriculum and teachers training were designed with the assistance of UNCESCO manuals and other. Schools were established in both urban-5 (Malibag, Mirpur Barisal, Bhranmanbaria and Mirpur-ward-7). And rural area-6 (in Dhamrai, Savar, Kishoreganj-2, Norsingdi, Faridpur)
From its inception BPF has been involved in human resource development, through innumerable local, regional, national and international training program, seminars, and conferences; and through the development of formal and informal certificate, undergraduate and post graduate courses through its Institute of Special Education, registered under the National University from 1998.The main courses run by the institute include Bachelors and Masters in Special Education (BSpEd, MSpEd), diploma and certificate courses in Speech, Language and Communication; Management of Physical Disabilities; Teaching through Play; Development of Teaching Aids; Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC); Inclusive Education; Portage Programme; Teaching Children with Sensory Difficulties (Vision and Hearing); Teaching Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders; using More Than Words; etc.
How to make CWDs independent and self-reliant to include them in the mainstream society:
Job Placement Ltd, in association with Corporate Compliance Partners Pvt. Ltd.( the donors) had a agreement with BPF for purchasing cows, sewing machine ,rickshaw van, small business(according to the need and culture based) for CWDs families attending inclusive school and within CBR programme of BPF since 2008.
Initially CWDs families were enrolled and it is increased for marginalized families with special consideration. Gradually the money is rolling within the hard core poor (marginalized) children. Till now BPF disbursed the money among 296 families.
The project focused on income generation for the poorest families and the purchase items would belong to the children and their mothers. The extended family now benefited from the additional income.
However it is important all parties realized that the project contributed empowerment of children and their mothers – thus overcoming dependency and poverty.
The overall goal of the project is, how to develop economic empowerment of children with and without disabilities and their families. Gradually BPF has started Inclusive employment program from2011:
BPF has been actively involved in relief and rehabilitation program to its families during floods, cyclones, and other natural disasters.
Our present concerns are how can we reach the hard core poor, especially who are at risk for disability and can we provide a safe environment? Child protection services have been initiated and we are also now working with various ministries of the government (health, social welfare and children’s and primary education) to reach all divisions and districts of the country. Since the past few years we have also focused on services to protect children from physical, emotional, sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation.