UTSC steps up to build schools for Bangladeshi children

With almost half the population living on less than a dollar a day in Bangladesh, many families there can’t afford to educate their children.

Jaago, meaning “step up” in Bengali, is an international foundation that raises money to build free-of-cost schools for children in Bangladesh, where students are required to pay tuition as early as kindergarten.

That’s what inspired 19-year-old student Tajrean Kashem to organize a Jaago event with musical performances and a dance competition to raise awareness and as much money as possible.

University of Toronto Scarborough students poured into Rex’s Den on Jan. 27, cheering on Toronto’s first Jaago event.

“This event turned out better than expected,” Kashem said. “I didn’t think I’d have so many audience members.”

From belly dancers to hip-hop acrobats, the talented performers attracted a huge crowd.

The manager of Rex’s Den had to stop people from coming in because the room was well over capacity.

“After it ended, I couldn’t believe how successful it was,” Kashem said. “Everyone was talking about it and gave positive feedback. All those sleepless nights were definitely worth it.”

Kashem, the Toronto representative of Jaago, and a group of volunteers invited dance teams from several universities in Ontario to participate. They raised funds by selling raffle tickets.

In November 2007, Jaago opened its first school with 17 children attending. Today, more than 300 are enrolled, and the construction of a second school is almost complete.

The funds collected from Toronto’s event will go toward building a third school.

“I decided to start something here because this is my country,” Kashem said. “I’m living a great life [in Canada] so I might as well do something to help them out.”

Subha Salwa, an 18-year-old volunteer, says she joined Jaago because it’s important to spread awareness about the issue in order for people to help out and donate.

“These children could have a better life like how we have here,” Salwa said.

“I think that [education] should be free as they grow up so that whether you’re poor, middle-class or rich, everyone could have the education that they need.”