Nabila Tasmia Anika is a student in class 6. Her father, who works at a power plant in Siddhirganj, in Narayanganj district of Bangladesh, could only study till class 8.
When Bangladesh needed to meet its energy demands, the World Bank stepped in with the Siddhirganj Power Project that helped install a gas-fired energy-efficient plant—the technology used yields more energy per unit of gas and thus reduces emissions.
However, an environmental assessment – conducted as part of all World Bank projects – showed the plant’s steam turbine and other planned equipment produced dust, vibrations, emissions, and noise pollution and would adversely affect the health and performance of school children.
What’s more, the school itself lacked many other amenities for a healthy learning environment. Some sections, especially those for the youngest children, were dilapidated; too many children crammed in small rooms.
The bathrooms were dirty, poorly lit, with missing doors. Girls would go thirsty and skip school during menstruation rather than use the dingy and unsafe facilities.
In this context, building a new school away from the turbine became necessary.
Partnering with the Electricity Generation Company of Bangladesh (EGCB), the location of the new school benefited from the environmental assessment of the surrounding air quality and noise levels.
In 2015, the World Bank repurposed $1.52 million from the project to build a new school at a safe distance from the power plant. Our team consulted various stakeholders in designing the school, and we followed UNICEF guidelines to ensure that the new building could provide an optimal experience for children, especially girls, parents, and teachers.
Earlier this year, the school opened to the children of the Siddhirganj power plant employees and from neighboring communities. The principal and teachers report that they feel more motivated to come to work, and the children are thrilled with the new facilities.
Teachers, many of whom are female, have a dedicated common room and facilities. The school also has a computer lab with 30 computers, a science lab, and a well-stocked library with books and projectors.
“Previously, we didn’t have any understanding of energy or electricity,” says Anika. “We didn’t have access to a lab to learn or understand science. We didn’t have access to computers. Now we do, and we can follow our dreams of becoming scientists generating solutions for the country.”