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Monday, March 4, 2024

The magnificent Ramon Magsasay Awardees

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“Both Dr. Kannan and Rakshand show us how far compassion and perseverance can take our own advocacies”

Every year, the Ramon Magsaysay Award (RMA) is given to individuals in Asia who have selflessly dedicated their lives to serving their communities.

This year, four people have been added to the roster of Ramon Magsaysay Laureates. The RMA is also known to be the “Nobel Prize of Asia.”

One way to gauge selfless service is to see whether one provides access to a service that is difficult to acquire. These first two awardees we’ll discuss do exactly this by developing and running pro-poor programs that bring quality education and healthcare to the disenfranchised.

Just like in the Philippines, quality education is close to inaccessible to poor communities in Bangladesh.

According to The Daily Star, while primary education is free, around 42 million people are still illiterate. This is approximately 26 percent of their population.

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Additionally, in 2020, they had a dropout rate of 17.2 percent at the primary level and 35.76 percent at the secondary level.

A large portion of these rates are brought by the poor quality of education in rural areas. In the Global Knowledge Index of 2022,

Bangladesh also ranked 105 out of 132 countries. This has caused parents to perceive that it’s not worth sending their children to school.

The state of education in Bangladesh pushed Korvi Rakshand, one of the recipients of the RMA this year, to establish the JAAGO Foundation with six other friends.

In Bangla, jaago translates to wake up. According to Rakshand, in 2007, when they made the foundation, they wanted to wake up, not from their dreams, but to wake their hearts up.

Waking their hearts up would lead to actualizing their dreams. In their case, this dream is to provide inclusive quality education for the disenfranchised.

According to the JAAGO Foundation website, they envision the elimination of poverty in their country through the help of literacy.

While there are initiatives from the government to improve education, there is a large disparity in educational opportunities and facilities.

This is why JAAGO has been providing access to free and quality education to underprivileged Bangladeshi kids.

Their program follows an English version of the National Curriculum and Textbook Board’s curriculum–an organization under the Ministry of Education in Bangladesh. From its humble beginnings in 2007, it is now one of the largest non-profit organizations in Bangladesh in their field. They have a total of 11 traditional and online schools in Bangladesh.

JAAGO’s other focus areas include the mobilization of the youth, women, climate change, and governance.

According to the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation Board, Korvi Rakshand shows “how the young can be not just the bearers of the promise of the nation, but its realization.”

Rakshand has now dedicated 15 years to a noble and demanding cause; this shows that the youth can never be ‘too idealistic’. We can always do something.

The second awardee has also provided easier access to a service that’s known for being terrifying to the underprivileged due to its cost–healthcare, specifically health services involving cancer patients.

Ravi Kannan R. is a surgical oncologist. He is also the Director of the Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Center.

According to their website, around 80 percent of their patients are daily wage workers, agricultural and tea garden laborers, and around 75% are treated for free or at subsidized rates.

This is practically revolutionary. As we all know, getting cancer care or treatment at all is a feat within itself.

To make available these services for free or for cheaper from a hospital that evidently cares about its patients is a dream.

According to the RMA website, Dr. Kannan became the hospital’s Director in 2007.

He was the first formally-trained oncologist to take the position. Then, they only had a staff of 23. They have now grown to 451 employees.

The RMAF board has also stated that they admire Dr. Kannan’s combination of skill, commitment, and compassion in pushing boundaries of people-centered, pro-poor health care and cancer care.

Being an oncologist alone is a taxing and difficult job, to give your time to develop a program that allows the underprivileged to have access to cancer care is beyond inspiring.

Both Dr. Kannan and Rakshand show us how far compassion and perseverance can take our own advocacies. Their stories and organizations are also a reminder that while an individual can receive an award, it truly takes a village to move our causes forward.

Here’s to Rakshand and Dr. Kannan; here’s to pro-poor programs and accessible social services.

I will profile the rest of the awardees in the following columns.

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