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Child marriage: An epidemic within the pandemic in Kurigram

  • Published at 03:20 pm October 4th, 2021
child marriage
Over the last 1.5 years, more than 500 schoolgirls from 43 schools in Kurigram's Fulbari upazila became child brides Dhaka Tribune

More than 500 schoolgirls belonging in Kurgiram's Fulbari upazila were married off during the pandemic

The period covered by the pandemic has witnessed the child marriage epidemic return to some remote areas of Bangladesh with educational institutes closed to contain the spread of the coronavirus. 

Over the last 1.5 years, more than 500 schoolgirls from 43 schools in Kurigram's Fulbari upazila became child brides, confirmed Upazila Secondary Education Officer Md Abdul Hai.

The highest number of child marriages were reported among students of Borovita Girls' High School and Borovita High School in Borovita union of the upazila.

Around 87 girls from Borovita Girls' High School and 55 girls from Borovita High School were married off during the pandemic, confirmed the headmasters of the schools.

Matiur Rahman Khandaker, the headmaster of Borovita Girls' High School said the students who were married off recently were mostly studying between the seventh and tenth grades.

Before the closure, the average attendance of students in this school was 70-90%, which dropped to 40-50% after the reopening, he added. 

On the first day of school, a few eighth-graders said they were very upset to hear that so many of their friends were married off. 

Sumi Akhter, a ninth-grader of the school, said: “When I returned to school, I saw 28 of my friends were absent on the first day. Later, I came to know that around 85-90 students of the school including my friends had all been married off. Now, I'm afraid of what will happen to me in the future.”

Badsha Miya, who recently married off his daughter, a ninth-grader of the school, said: “We are poor people. I earn my bread by driving a van. I found a suitable man for my daughter and so I married her off.”

Another parent Bablu Miya said: “I am a cycle mechanic and my family barely survived with my little income. During the pandemic, we had to live in hardship as we didn't get any financial assistance from anywhere.

“I was also worried as my daughter was growing up fast. So, when we received a proposal from a suitable guy, I married her off. But, now I'm feeling guilty for ruining my daughter's future.”

Borovita Girls' High School Headmaster Matiur Rahman said he had stopped the marriages of 25-30 students of his school in the last 1.5 years. 

However, the 85 students fell victim to child marriage because of communication barriers.

Meanwhile, Borovita High School Headmaster Sharif Uddin Miya said most of the students' families lived in char areas and they were from poor backgrounds. “The trend of child marriage has increased due to the closure of schools. If the school remained open, there would not have been so many child marriages.”

“Some married girls have started returning to school. I hope the rest will do the same,” said the headmaster.

In this regard, Upazila Secondary Education Officer Md Abdul Hai said he had instructed teachers to visit the homes of their students. “We are trying to get them to return to school.”

Headmaster Matiur Rahman Khandaker said they were also visiting the girls who had been married off to try and convince their parents to let them come to the school.

Meanwhile, Fulbari Upazila Nirbahi Officer Sumon Das said: “We have started various programs including meetings and rallies to prevent child marriages.” 

He called upon the people's representatives of each union and the civil society to build resistance against child marriage.

Kurigram District Education Officer (DEO) Md Shamsul Alam said: "The way child marriage is increasing at an alarming rate is really a matter of concern for the future." 

He urged everyone to work together to prevent child marriage and save the future of these girls.