The Joint Waqf of IsDB and Bangladesh: Partnering to Establish a Landmark Institution with Long-Term Sustainability
The Islamic Development Bank—Bangladesh Islamic Solidarity Education Wakf (IsDB-BISEW)
In Dhaka, Bangladesh, on a 2-acre plot of land lies the Islamic Development Bank-Bangladesh Islamic Solidarity Education Waqf (IsDB-BISEW) complex: IsDB-Bhaban, which rises 81 meters as one of the most prestigious buildings in the Agargaon area of the capital. Established in 1987 following an agreement between the Islamic Development Bank and the Government of Bangladesh, IsDB-BISEW began operating in 1997 and finally came to serve its educational mandate in 2003. Because there was no pre-existing organization that requested financial aid from the IsDB for the Waqf, the IsDB is practically the founder, not merely the financier, of the project.
As for the “Deed of Waqf” of the project, the IsDB-BISEW’s primary aim was to financially aid the education of Muslim Bangladeshi students, Islamic educational institutions in Bangladesh, and the orphanages of the state. As IsDB-BISEW believed that Bangladeshi youth were capable enough of transforming into a productive workforce, it worked on bridging the breach between education and employment in the country; hence, the key parameter of success for the project was job placement of its graduates.
With tenants of the highest quality (including multiple UN offices and the IsDB Regional Hub office), IsDB Bhaban has been able to achieve significant stability of financial income; the budget estimates for Financial Year July 2018-June2019 indicated a total gross income of approximately $4.56 million. This stable income has allowed IsDB-BISEW to sit on a sinking fund of $10.68 million and own a piece of property estimated to be worth $50 million. In total, with a new 2-acre plot of land allocated by the Government for a new Waqf project, IsDB-BISEW currently has a net worth of $160 million.
With its distribution of about $1.23 million each year into educational and human resource development, IsDB-BISEW supports the following five programs, specifically: the IT Scholarship Program, aiming to transform the large populace of unemployed non-IT university graduates into productive workforce propellers; the Vocational Training Program, targeting high school dropouts and strengthening their abilities to create jobs in the fields of electricity, mechanics, and welding and fabrication; the Madrasah Program, designed to develop Madrasahs’ facilities and to introduce the Dakhil (Vocational) Program under the Bangladesh Technical Education Board (BTEB); Scholarships for 4-Year Diplomas in Engineering Program, meant to create opportunities for Vocational Program graduates of the Madrasah Program to complete 4-year Engineering Diplomas in government polytechnic institutes by providing necessary expenses; and the Orphanage program, including a single project—the Khaiyarbhanga Orphanage in Madaripur, which focuses on a number of running courses for the orphans. In total, these five programs have served over 42.5 thousand beneficiaries, created over 6.5 thousand job placements—accounting for 92% of the Waqf graduates, and utilizing $19.6 million in project disbursements, out of the total revenues generated by the Waqf of $46.3 million.
On the personal level of individual beneficiaries, many IsDB-BISEW graduates have led the best professional lives, a large fraction of them climbing the career ladder exceptionally quickly. Afroza Akhter, an IsDB-BISEW IT Program graduate, for example, has worked at both IBCS-Primax Software BD Ltd and the leading telecom operator Banglalink until she left to pursue more attractive job opportunities in 2017 as an Application Lead Engineer. Rakib Hossain, a Madrasah Program (Vocational) graduate, has been operating as an Area Manager in the ROSE CAFA electric industry in Sunamganj since 2016.
On a larger scope, the IsDB-BISEW has impacted both the Awqaf philanthropic sector and the local economy as a whole. The Bangladesh Ministry of Religious Affairs' Waqf Administration considers this project a major success, as reflected by the project’s multiple prizes and honors and the high-profile role model it sets in the Awqaf domain. IsDB-BISEW has also boosted the local economy with its international-standard assets, its initiative in the IT field, and its locally unprecedented execution of educational programs. IsDB-BISEW has long served as a prototype for high-achieving Waqf projects because of multiple aspects: Its solid management via the CEO and Mutawalli/Nazir committee (including representatives nominated by the Government and IsDB); its exceptional, intricate educational programs, designed for actual execution; and its successful Waqf asset selection and use. Although the Waqf faced many challenges, most notably the scalability and macro-economic impact on Bangladeshi youth, the Waqf has still been able to serve as a major propeller of educational programs in Bangladesh.