Mother-focused education explored

Film centres on non-profit’s teach-a-woman-to-fish education philosophy in the developing world

A free documentary screening coming to TRU this week hopes to tug on both heartstrings and purse strings.

“Heart to Head: How Amarok Society Women are Teaching the World’s Poorest Children” is set to show at 5:30 p.m., Oct. 23, in the International Building.

Brought to TRU by the Rotary Club of Kamloops Daybreak and the TRU Faculty Association Status of Women Committee, the film promises a behind-the-scenes look at the Amarok Society, a non-profit organization training women living in Bangladeshi slums to be neighbourhood teachers.

"Heart to Head" documents the Amaroks society's work educating women in the slums of Bagladesh. (image courtesy of the Amarok Society)

“Heart to Head” documents the Amaroks society’s work educating women in the slums of Bagladesh. (image courtesy of the Amarok Society)

Amarok founders Gem and Tanyss Munro began opening schools for children in Bangladesh over eight years ago alongside their four children, but quickly realized the demand was outpacing their ability to meet it.

“There is great difficulty in raising the resources to open schools as quickly as children are being born in the developing world, so what we decided to do was create a solution that was growing in the same multiples as the problem itself,” said Gabriel Munro, one of the first Amarok Society school teachers and the guest of honour at Thursday’s documentary showing.

In 2006 the society opened its first school focused on educating mothers with the idea that those women would then spread what they had learned in their own neighbourhoods.

According to Munro, focusing on mothers rather than children also challenged gender inequality in an area where women are often discouraged from getting an education.

“We always like to give the women tests and then prizes and certificates, things like that,” Munro said. “So one of the women whose husband had been beating her and been very violent, after she did well on her test, he became her most fervent supporter. He went through the slums bragging to everybody that his wife came first in her exams.”

TRUFA Status of Women Committee co-chair Gail Morong said she is inspired by the Munro family’s work and hopes the documentary will drum up financial support for the Amarok Society.

“Any dollar that you put into educating women, you’re going to get a lot of benefit for your money, as opposed to educating men,” she said. “I do believe that’s the way to go, because the women bring up each generation right? The women bring up the children, male and female, so if you focus on the woman, like [the Amarok Society] did in this case − it’s a good strategy.”

The Amarok Society operates about 20 schools in Bangladesh and is considering expanding operations into Pakistan and Nigeria.