Just a three-hour drive separates Nirma Mankhin’s nursing college in Mymensingh, Bangladesh, from her family’s home in Bhuiyapara.
At one end is a city with roads full of brightly painted rickshaws and large buses with sides dented from squeezing through traffic jams. At the other end is the village of Bhuiyapara, its quiet red-dirt roads surrounded by vibrant green rice fields, with more pedestrians and bicycles than buses.
In Bhuiyapara, Nirma’s father Monindra Rongdi and mother Sonachi Mankhin work as daily labourers in rice fields owned by others.
Meanwhile in Mymensingh, the 20-year-old, through an MCC-supported program, spends her days in classrooms filled with preserved organs, plastic skeletons and models of bodily systems. It’s these classrooms that are the key to her mother’s hopes for Nirma.
“We don’t want our children to be like us,” Sonachi Mankhin says. “We are labouring very hard . . . we want them to get a good job.”
As a child, she only made it through grade two. Her father died when she was young and her mother couldn’t afford education for her three daughters. “Sometimes we had to beg from others for a living,” she says. Her husband also lost his father as a young child and his mother couldn’t afford school past grade five.
"Mom and Dad said, ‘We couldn’t study more but we want you to study.’"
The couple’s oldest daughter, Tira, finished grade 10, but then Rongdi got tuberculosis, and paying for his treatments meant the family didn’t have enough money for her to stay in school. “It wasn’t possible,” says Tira, who is now married with two children, and works out of her home as a tailor. Her husband dyes fabric in the garment industry.
Nirma, however, is able to go to nursing school because of funding from MCC, administered through the Bhalukapara Catholic Church.
The program, which is for students who would struggle to afford more schooling but want to finish grades 11 and 12 or attend vocational training programs, helps cover tuition and the cost of living in a city away from home.
It provides a tangible path for students such as Nirma or Luxmi Chambugong, who also is from Bhuiyapara and is studying nursing in Mymensingh, to gain their footing in a new career and have the opportunity for better-paying jobs.
While Chambugong’s family does own some land and farms rice, her father Moniraj Manda says they’ve sometimes needed to borrow money or sell pigs, cows or trees from their land to pay for schooling. Affording Chambugong’s tuition and living costs in Mymensingh, as well as education for her siblings, would be a struggle without MCC’s help. “If we wouldn’t get that support maybe we would sell the land, maybe we would sell the cow to help them finish,” Manda says.
Instead, he and his wife can focus on working their land, while Chambugong — dressed in a white lab coat that is the uniform of nurses in training — continues to attend classes at Rumdo Institute of Medical Technology.
Across town at Scholar’s Medical Institute, Nirma is now in her second year of nursing school, taking anatomy and physiology courses that are leading her closer to a career in health care.
As she studies and practices her skills three days a week at the Mymensingh Medical College Hospital, she knows how important it is to her parents that she and her sister, who attends another nursing college in Mymensingh, take advantage of this opportunity.
“Mom and Dad said, ‘We couldn’t study more but we want you to study,’” she says. “‘What we couldn’t do, you will do.’”