While I was in the UK the new cohort of students arrived. As always nothing is straightforward here in Bangladesh and students who had been invited to come to the course had heard a rumour that taking out a loan with the Grameen Bank could be very problematic. This led to 25 of the 50 students selected not arriving at the start of the Semester. The team here in Bangladesh headed up by the Vice Principal of GCCN pulled out all the stops and contacted every guardian and student by phone explaining how the loan worked and putting right their misconceptions. As a result of this we now have 48 students, just two short of our target of 50. They are a really lovely group of young women and already they are becoming an integral part of the college life.
Once again we held, as a team of college staff, our annual staff development ‘away day’. The theme this year was on team building and leadership. We stayed in the beautiful compound of the Hope Foundation, an ecumenical training centre. It had very good facilities, was clean and provided good food. Even more important it was only one and half hours drive away which on Bangladesh roads is a short distance. Freya Brannan led the sessions and the totally interactive fun approach meant everyone enjoyed the whole workshop as well as giving us the opportunity to address some of the problems that arise within any team of people working in a college like ours.
Our latest volunteer is Gwn Ratcliffe, a very experienced midwife from Wales. She has been here two weeks and during that time has taught our third year midwifery class, supervised students in practice and led a 3 day workshop for staff midwives and nurse managers. Her innovative and fun teaching methods have engaged everyone and our teachers have observed many different ways in which learning can take place. She also brought simulation models which were funded jointly by the Royal College of Midwives and St Marks Church Cardiff. Our sincere thanks to Gwyn and her supporters for these. Gwyn also had the opportunity to have an epic Bangladesh travel experience one evening by travelling on a CNG (motorised rickshaw), a flat bottomed wooden boat, a bus (a journey of four hours to cover 12 kilometres which broke down) and then a pedal cycle rickshaw!!!
Some of you will have read that there have been demonstrations both peaceful and violent in Bangladesh over the last few weeks culminating in what is now a seven day vigil in the city of over one million people. Although some of the demonstrations have been violent these have generally been confined to individual areas both in Dhaka and across the country, while the vigil has been held in the city centre of Dhaka. Our daily life has carried on as normal and there have been no threats to the college, students or staff. The main issues that have given rise to these demonstrations and vigils are the verdicts given against war criminals that the population feel are not sufficiently severe.
Our Hindu students were very excited about the up and coming Sarawasti worship event in the Hindu calendar. We used one of the college classrooms and a Hindu priest was invited to carry out the ceremony. Many of the staff joined the students for the ceremony including people from all faiths. The worship is focused on the goddess of knowledge and it is customary for students and school children to mark this day in their colleges and schools as one where they acknowledge the importance of knowledge and say prayers to get help for their studies.