Students have to cross two rivers to go to school
There are no secondary schools in Nikli’s Goradigha village. If they want to continue studying after class five, students of the village have to cross two rivers to go to another village in the distant.
It’s a village named Goradighi in the haor region. Boats are the sole way of communication to and from that village in both rainy and dry seasons. There ae no secondary schools in the village under Singpur union of Kishhoreganj’s Nikli upazila.
If they want to continue studying after class five, students of the village have to cross two rivers to go to another village in the distance.
It takes 2 hours and costs Tk 80 to 100 to go to and from the high school every day. So, the students from poor families drop out after class five. While boys are forced to enter the labour sector, girls fall victim to child marriage.
Under such a condition, the country observed National Day of the Girl Child on Saturday. The theme for the day this year was ‘priority in investment, rights of the girl child’.
According to Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics (BANBEIS)’s report of 2022, the number of secondary schools (excluding English medium and madrsasah) in the country is 18,907 and the number of students is about 8.9 million (88.89 crore). Around 55 per cent of the total students are girls.
There is a junior secondary, nine secondary and six dakhil madrasah in in Nikli upazila whereas the number of students in these educational institutes is about 11,000.
Population of the village with 690 houses is about 4,000. Majority of the villagers earn their livelihoods by catching fish during the monsoon. There are no rickshaws or cycle vans in the village. The only way out of the village is using small boats.
There are three schools in the remote village. They are- Goradigha govt primary school, a floating school teaching up to class five run by non-government organisation POPI and another school teaching up to class two, run by IDF. The secondary school closest to the village is in Aliapara village of Dampara union. One has to cross Ghorautara and Dhonu rivers to reach there.
Singpur union parishad (UP) chairman Mohammad Ali told Prothom Alo that students of Goradigha are the one suffering most in the union. Despite repeated pleas to the administration, no secondary schools have been set up in the village.
Many irregular students
Public representatives and villagers said that around a hundred students from Goradigha village go to AB Noorjahan Hossain High School in Aliapara. The numbers of male and female students are almost equal.
They start from home around 8:00am to stand in line for the boats. Rivers and farmlands get all mixed up in monsoon. They have to cross two rivers and a canal to reach the school.
In the dry season, they have to either walk or take an auto-rickshaw to reach the school after getting off of the boats at Singpur Bazar. It costs Tk 60 to cross the river on boats on the way to and from the school while it costs Tk 20 more to have breakfast.
Owning to exhaustion of the journey and the financial expenses, many of the students don’t go to the school more than several days a month.
An SSC student of the village Papia Akhter said, “I cannot go to the school more than seven or eight days a month. On days I manage to go to the school, I get help from other students to catch up with the lessons I missed.”
UP member in Goradigha ward, Abdul Motalib said that thrice the number of current students would continue their studies if there was a high school in the village. A total of 22 students from the village will be seating for SSC examinations this year and half of them are female students, he added.
Nikli upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) Shakila Parveen said that among the children growing up in Haor region, those who are eager about studies do go to school despite the difficulties.
Dropouts like Brishti, Shikha
Brishti Akhter (16) passed primary education completion (PEC) examinations six years back. Brishti, talented in cultural activities like dancing and singing, now helps her mother with chores at home.
Her father Bokul Mia is a fisherman and he’s unable to bear the expenses of his daughter’s education. After completing their education till class five, Brishti and her brother both had to drop out of school. Her brother helps their father with fishing now.
It wasn’t possible for physically disabled, Shikha Akhter (15) to continue her studies after class five as it required travelling far from home. Her father Manik Mia sighed, his daughter’s education wouldn’t have come to a stop if there was a high school in the village.
Nikli upazila secondary education officer, Md Nuruzzaman Habib said that so far, there’s no plan to set up even a junior secondary school in Goradigha.
Child marriage victims
When this reporter met the girl, she still had a light imprint of henna on her hands. She was married off to a fisherman from the same village on 7 September. The girl said she used to be a class seven student at AB Noorjahan Hossain High School.
In reply to the question ‘why did you marry such a young girl off?’ her mother said, “Tell me how many rivers have to be crossed to reach Aliapara! Plus, how can we spend Tk 70-80 daily!”
Paramedic at POPI’s floating clinic, Fulmala Akhter said that majority of the girls in this village fall victim to child marriage. UP member Abdul Motalib however claimed that there are less than two per cent child marriages in the village.
According to Bangladesh demographic and health survey 2022, marriage rate among girls aged below 18 years is 50 per cent in the country.
Investment needs to be increased
Former caretaker government advisor and executive director of Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), Rasheda K Choudhury told Prothom Alo that it is both risky and costly for children to go to the school in boats through the Haor.
The government can introduce water buses in the haor region, where the students will be given the chance to cross the water for free.
She said that the plan to build area-based schools in the chars and the hill tracts alike that in haor regions has to be implemented through the local government. Investment per student in the country is much lower than that in developed countries as well as many neighboring countries.
Mentioning that the government has increased investment in the education sector, deputy minister for education Mohibul Hassan Chowdhury told Prothom Alo that the government has a mega plan to build more schools in the haor region.
But before that, he said he will discuss it if teaching activities can be continued in remote villages like Goradigha by sending teachers there or in any other alternative ways.
[Kishoreganj correspondent Tafsilul Aziz helped with preparing this report]