The students, who are now absent, include two sixth-graders, four seventh-graders, six eighth-graders and four from ninth and 10th grades
At least 20 minor students of a girls’ madrasa in Manirampur upazila, Jessore have been married off early amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, as found in an unofficial survey.
The marriages took place while the madrasa was closed to curb the spread of Covid-19 infection, said a teacher of the Pariali Adarsha Balika Dakhil Madrasa.
Two sixth-graders, four seventh-graders, six eighth-graders and four girls from the ninth and 10th grades were found absent at the recently initiated weekly assignment submission day and later were discovered to have been wedded off by their families, said Superintendent of the madrasa Abdul Halim.
In conversation with Dhaka Tribune on Tuesday, he claimed that there was little to no ramifications of informing the authority about child marriages.
“The guardians are smart and desperate to marry off their daughters. Most of the time they move to other villages or their relatives’ homes to conduct the marriages so that the authorities cannot find out,” he said.
“We were informed that one of our students, Ritu, a 10th grader, was going to be wedded off. But we couldn’t do anything as her parents had moved to their relatives’ house to conduct the marriage in secret,” said Ambarish Roy, a teacher of the madrasa.
“The institution has been closed since mid-March this year. When we resumed on November 1, we found a lot of our girls absent; they were later found to have been given away in marriage, which was very frustrating,” said Halim.
He added: “We used to inform the authorities about child marriages. But as it happens even after we stop the weddings, for the time being, the guardians of the girls take them to other places and marry them off anyway. So we have lost our enthusiasm for informing the authorities.”
If over 20 girls can be married off from one institution, then how critical and severe might be the situation in other areas? That was the question a few teachers posed over the situation.
Bikash Chandra Sarker, the education officer of Manirampur upazila, said the madrasa authorities of the area had not informed him about the child marriages and so he did not know about the exact number of the girls given away in such marriages.
The upazila’s Women's Affairs Officer Mausumi Akhter said: “Since the closure of the schools in March, we stopped 17 child marriages in the area.
“But as we were not informed about the marriages of madrasa girls of that madrasa, we couldn't stop them.”