Bangladesh - Moulovibazar - High School
The workers in the tea plantations in Bangladesh are probably the most disadvantaged social group in the country, working basically as slave labour for less than one US dollar a day. Their poor living and working conditions, as well as the social discrimination against them as members of minority tribal groups, deprive them of basic human needs and rights necessary for personal and societal progress. These conditions create a vicious circle in which their children in turn have no other option than becoming tea workers themselves.
Social norms give boys distinct preference in terms of getting any formal education at all. Uneducated girls are married off during adolescence, the age group where maternal mortality is extremely high in Bangladesh.
In the 150 years since the first generation of workers was brought to the tea plantations, not a single member has reached tertiary studies.
The construction of a new Secondary Boarding School, St Marcellin, has been completed and will accept students from 1 January 2017. It has been built by The Marist Brothers Trust of Bangladesh and will be run jointly by them and the Marist Missionary Sisters.
It will start from Grade 6 and add a new grade each year, accepting 50 external students (who will pay fees and thus help the sustainability of the project), plus 50 students from the Tea Plantations (equal numbers of boys and girls), who will be boarders. Living conditions in the workers’ dwellings (lack of light and personal space, a high level of domestic violence and demands made on the girl child), make it almost impossible to study. Besides, most of the girls would live too far away to be able to walk to and from the school each day.
This Boarding school will provide holistic development of severely disadvantaged girls to:
Enable these girls to receive a quality secondary education, that will allow them to do tertiary studies, including nursing or teacher training, or to get a better job than that of a tea worker.
Diminish the high rate of teenage marriage amongst the girls in the Tea Plantations and therefore increase their chances of surviving pregnancy and childbirth.
Empower these poor girls so they can improve their own lot in life and that of their families.
The first intake in 2016 was for 25 girls in 2016 increasing by 25 each year for at least the following 5 years taking the total complement to 125 girls. A parallel program is available to boys.
What Is Lenity Australia’s Involvement?
Initially, Lenity Australia will be providing full scholarships covering the education and accommodation for all girls for 3 years.
Today’s illiterate child is
Tomorrow’s uneducated girl is
Tomorrow’s uneducated mother/grandmother
Without education for women nothing really changes