Papiya Akhter (12) was just promoted to class VI when her school was closed for Coronavirus pandemic. During the closure of the school, Papiya's father Rezaul Karim settled a marriage for her and now Papiya is the mother of a one-year aged male baby.
Her school is now open but child Papiya is now seen frolicking round her cottage by clinging to her child with two of her delicate arms. She is now busy taking care of her child and her husband's household chores.
Papiya was a student of Kalikapur Junior-Secondary Girls School under Bagmara upazila of Rajshahi district. Her parents' house is beside the school.
Often Papiya visits her parents house and taking her child on the lap she often stands beside the road connecting to her school, exchanging views with her former classmates. Some of her classmates come close to Papiya, fondle her child, even some of them take him on their laps for a while.
Like Papiya, many of her classmates are not seen to approach the school. They are also the victims of early marriage. As a result, the road for their school is now also closed.
Selina Akhter Banu, Headmaster of Kalikapur Junior- Secondary Girls' School informed, before the advent of Coronavirus pandemic, the total number of students of her school from class VI to VII was 70. Of them 30 are the victims of early marriage. However, 1o of those married girls are somehow attending the school but the rest 20 have not yet showed up.
As a result, she is now continuing her school classes and examinations with 50 students only. She said,' the school is situated in a remote village. The guardians of the students are not also conscious. Soon after the closure of the school due to Corona, as many as 30 were married, all at their early age'.
According to sources, at least 6,500 secondary school level girl students were the victims of early marriage in Rajshahi district during the Coronavirus pandemic. Some of these married girls often attend the schools but most of them are busy with household chores while some are already mothers of children.
Nasir Uddin, Education Officer of Rajshahi district has recently collected the lists of married girl-students from lower- Secondary (Junior) and the Secondary schools of the district. But, he has no idea what is the condition at the primary levels.
According to statistics of Rajshahi district Education Office, the total number of students in 544 secondary and Junior Schools during the primary infection of Coronavirus in the district was 212,163 out of which the number of girl students was 103,407.
Of these girl students 6,512 were married during the Coronavirus period. The rate of percentage of marriage is 6.29%. Of the marriages, 1,785 were from Bagmara upazila which is the highest among the upazilas of the district. The percentage of marriage in the upazila is 8.34%.
Sk Ali Hasan, Headmaster of Mochmoil Girls High School in Bagmara informed, three of the girl SSC examinees of his school were married. Hafizur Rahman, HeadMaster of Daukandi High School under Durgapur upazila informed, 13 of the girl students of his schools were married during the Corona.
Azad Ali Karigor, Head Master of Gopalpur HS of Durgapur informed, eight girl students of his school were married, four of them were very meritorious. He lamented there was no programme either from the government or from the local people, political leaders or public representatives to resist the early marriage of the students during the Corona menace.
Rajshahi Education Officer Nasir Uddin informed, he himself has initiated to find out the number of minor girls got married during the Coronavirus break. The figure of early-marriage among the school students is horrendous. However, he said, some of those married girls, specially who are SSC examinees, are attending the classes.
Abdus Salam, District Primary Education Officer, informed that there is a rare incident of marriage of primary school girls that is why no information in this connection has been collected.
He added, now more than 80 percent of students attend the classes in the schools.