Poverty, child marriage to blame
As students across the country are back to classrooms after one of the world's longest Covid-19 closures, many of them missed their peers with officials concerned in Kurigram fearing that at least 50,000 children may have dropped out due to early marriage and poverty in the district.
Teachers and officials concerned gave this observation to UNB as the schools reopened on Sunday after nearly 18 months amid a festive atmosphere and calls for maintaining Covid-19 health guidelines.
District Secondary Education Officer Shamsul Alam said: "We inspected five schools in Kurigram Sadar on Sunday. Around 13% of students have dropped out of these institutions during the school closure. As many as 63 girls were victims of child marriage."
According to “our assumptions, the total number of school dropouts in the district would be around 50,000,” he said adding: “We have directed the individuals concerned to present an exact figure as soon as possible.”
After a reality check at the schools in different upazilas of the district including Ulipur and Kurigram, the UNB correspondent reported that the number of absentees was 20-25% on average in all the institutions.
The correspondent added that most of the students had dropped out due to economic reasons and a significant amount due to early marriage.
After talking to parents, teachers and other related individuals, the reporter estimated that as many as 91 girls were married from Kurigram Girls High School, Ghogadaha Maleka Begum Girls High School, Kanthalbari Girls High School and Barullah Girls High School.
A teacher at Kurigram Girls High School, seeking anonymity, said 30 girls, including 12 of the 10th grade, had gotten married.
Jannatun, an SSC student of Jatrapur Girls High School in Kurigram Sadar upazila said: "Five of my classmates have been married off by their parents."
Irene, another 10th grader, said: "Our parents treated us as if we were a burden that needed to be offloaded as soon as possible. We were not allowed to go outside the confines of our homes. Taking private tuition was not even an option."
"Although many of my friends wanted to study and had big dreams, they became victims of child marriage," she added.
The acting headmaster of the school, Abdul Mannan, said: "If we observe for a week, we will know how many children have dropped out. We will find out the reasons behind this."