As students across the country are back to classrooms after one of the world’s longest closures due to Covid-19, 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 concerned officials said this to news agency UNB as school reopened on Sunday after nearly 18 months amid a festive atmosphere and calls for maintaining Covid-19 health guidelines.

“We inspected five schools in Kurigram Sadar on Sunday. Around 13 per cent of students have dropped out from these institutions during school closure. As many as 63 girls were victims of child marriage,” said district secondary education officer Shamsul Alam.

“Our assumption is the total number of school dropouts in the district would be around 50,000,” he said adding that “We’ve directed the concerned individuals to submit an exact figure as soon as possible.”

Our assumption is the total number of school dropouts in the district would be around 50,000
Shamsul Alam, Officer, Kurigram district secondary education

A visit to the schools in different upazilas of the district including Ulipur and Kurigram, it was found that the number of absentees was 20-25 per cent on average in all the institutions.

Most of the students dropped out due to economic reasons and a significant amount due to early marriage.

Talking to parents, teachers and other related individuals, UNB found that as many as 91 girls from Kurigram Girls High School, Ghogadaha Maleka Begum Girls High School, Kanthalbari Girls High School and Barullah Girls High School were married off.

A teacher at Kurigram Girls’ High School, seeking anonymity, said 30 girls , including 12 of the 10th grade, got married.

Jannatun, a SSC candidate from Jatrapur Girls High School in sadar upazila said, “Five of my classmates were forced by their parents to tie the knots.”

Irene, a 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 walls of our homes. Taking private tuition was totally out of option.”

“Although many of my friends wanted to study and had dreams, they became victims of child marriage,” she added.

The acting headmaster of Jatrapur Girls High 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 for this.”