Teachers and parents have identified economic and social insecurity as the prime reason behind child marriages
Along with the rest of the country, Khulna district also has seen an alarming rise in child marriages, as a substantial number of girls dropped out of schools during the long Covid pandemic period that stretched over 1.5 years.
A little over 3,000 schoolgirls, mostly studying between the seventh and tenth grades, became child brides during this period across the 10 upazilas of the district, according to the District Education Officer Ruhul Amin.
“During the pandemic period, when all schools remained closed, many school-going girls were married off by their parents and guardians as they thought it was the best for their children, faced as they were with a sudden sense of economic and social insecurity,” said Ruhul Amin.
According to official data, there have been 751 child marriages in Dumuria upazila, 681 in Koyra upazila, 483 in Paikgachha upazila, 291 in Dacope upazila, 217 in Rupsha upazila, 158 in Sadar upazila, 149 in Terokhada upazila, 240 in Fultola upazila, 33 in Batiaghata upazila and six in Digholia upazila.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, an eighth-grader of Gilatala High School in Sadar upazila said she was married off three months ago. Covid-triggered economic hardship had compelled her family to make the decision, she mentioned.
She wishes to continue her studies, all of which now depend completely on the decisions of her in-laws.
Her mother said even though child marriage was illegal, they were left with no other options because of pressing factors like closure of schools, no family income, local people’s opinions as well as other issues such as eve teasing.
Similarly, another seventh-grader of Fulbarigate Ucep School was married off last week. Her family members cited their poor economic condition and unavailability of aid as chief reasons, among many others, for marrying off their daughter.
Meanwhile, her mother, who was also married off when she was 13 years-old, seemed confident when she said that their daughter would not face any issues at her in-laws’ place.
Mohsen Biswas, principal of Atra Sreenath Middle School, said twelve girls of his school had fallen prey to child marriage over the past one year and a half. “After the school opened following a long vacation, many girls returned, save for some girls from low income families who were married off.”
The principal had also identified the fact that students had taken up various forms of employment since they were not coming to school.
A teacher from the Gilatola area of the municipal town, on condition of anonymity, said on an average 20 girls from each school in the area, mostly between the seventh and tenth grades, were married off. And they were not attending classes anymore save for only a few.
Speaking on the issue, District Education Officer Ruhul Amin said: “What has been done cannot be undone. Now, we are working to ensure that those who’ve been married off continue coming to classes and don’t drop out completely.”