Swapna is a non-profit organisation that focuses on providing free admission coaching and guidance to aspiring university students in need.
How much money and time did you invest trying to get into your dream university? Probably a lot. We live in a society that requires students to spend hours every day at ‘coaching’ sessions as preparation for university admission exams.
Since public universities offer higher education at an affordable price, there is substantial competition among aspiring students to secure admission, predominantly for the top public universities in the country.
Globally university education is expensive. Fortunately, the public universities of Bangladesh offer hope to many people who would not have been able to pursue higher education otherwise. It is also worth noting that though the tuition fees of public universities are relatively low, there is a significant cost associated with getting exam candidates sufficiently prepared to pass the entrance exams.
“Some parents hesitate to send their children to coaching as they think that money will be lost if their child does not secure admission,” said Samiul Bashir Tahsin, the founder of ‘Swapna’. Swapna is a non-profit organisation that focuses on providing free admission coaching and guidance to aspiring university students in need.
How Swapno began
Tahsin completed his HSC in 2018 and got enrolled in the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).
In the next admission season, he met a promising student. However, when asked about her university preparation, she said that she could not afford to join any coaching centre. This incident came as a revelation to Tahsin. He realised the staggering number of students who are deprived of a good chance at getting into a public university because they have a lack of access to affordable academic support.
Then Tahsin, with the help of his friends who were also students of different public universities like the University of Dhaka, BUET, Dhaka Medical College and the Bangladesh University of Textiles, conceived of Swapna. Their objective was to provide support for underprivileged students striving to get into public universities.
The promising student Tahsin met eventually received academic support from Swapna, which enabled her to become a student at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering of Jahangirnagar University.
Swapna is helping make a difference
Apurbo Sarkar, a first-year student at Chittagong Medical University, received the support of Swapna. Sarkar said Swapna helped make a difference in the academic journey of many underprivileged students trying to get into public universities.
Although Swapna charges no money for its services, the quality of education and guidance provided is comparable to that of any commercial coaching centre, Sarkar said.
“We used to sit for free exams after every topic had been covered by the teachers. Even on Friday, the teachers did not take any break for themselves and spent their off-days teaching students,” he added.
“The teachers here do not behave strictly or formally which can often alienate students, instead, they behave like they were our older brothers or sisters. They want nothing more than to help us succeed. If someone joins Swapna, s/he will get a wide range of support – from organised lectures to tried-and-tested strategies to face the exam,” Apurba added. At this moment, Swapna has around 30 teachers. This year, 80 students have already registered, which is ten more than the number of students enrolled last year. As far as the success of those enrolled in Swapna is concerned, last year, one student got into the Chittagong Medical College, another student got admission to the University of Dhaka, two students got the opportunity to study at Jagannath University while several others cleared the integrated admission test of 20 public universities.
The challenges that lie ahead
Unfortunately, Swapna has not started teaching online. Tahsin explained, “We have not started teaching online yet due to the shortage of technical facilities, although we realise the importance of starting to teach online.
By teaching online, we will be able to reach more students from every corner of the country. To start the online teaching program, the organisation needs a computer, projector (to teach in class and broadcast online), camera, etc., which we cannot afford at this moment.
The students of Swapna come from humble backgrounds and are working hard to change their lives. Some of them struggle to allocate the time to come to the centre because they must earn to support their families. Few of them also have to overcome restrictions from their families, especially the girls — their parents are sometimes not interested in educating them at all! Despite all their struggles, our students attend the classes regularly and inspire us to carry on with our work.”
When asked about the financial situation of Swapna, Tahsin replied, “We provide contributions ourselves and get donations from our seniors. For the books and exercise sheets, students pay a token amount that helps us carry on with our lessons.”
A vision for the future
Tahsin said that he started Swapna believing that financial hardship should not be an obstacle in chasing one’s dream of getting into a public university. “I could have gotten into taking private tuitions, but this work has given me a sense of satisfaction and mental peace. The organisation is like my child, I have a vision for it,” he said.
“The vision is to do something sustainable that has a long-lasting impact on society. As an organisation, we could have focused on distributing winter clothes or spending on food for the homeless people. But our vision is to guide underprivileged students to become educated, which will benefit them their whole life,” Tashin explained.
“The teachers here are university students. They know that there will be a time when they have to start a professional life and leave the organisation. But the team is trying to build the organisation in such a way that it can sustain itself. For now, the idea is to create organisational guidelines and guiding principles so that future teachers can run this organisation following a common vision,” Tahsin added.