Education for the children of the people of chars (landmasses that has emerged from the riverbed) of the Godagari upazila of northern Rajshahi district ends at the primary level as they cannot go to high schools located in other places due to risky and troublesome communication.
Besides, health services remain elusive for the people of the remote chars, as a result of which they have to rely on village quacks.
The marginal people complained that they remain deprived of immunization and family planning programmes, maternal health services and sanitation facilities of the government.
Char dwellers and non-government organisations blamed the government for lack of proper attention, and for the present situation which is worsening day by day.
Dwellers in the chars of Padma River in Manik, Bhubanpara, Boyarmari, Nowsera and Kanapara of Godagari upazila in Rajshahi district told New Age that poverty is forcing parents there to make their children work instead of going to school.
The children are now grazing cattle, doing agricultural work, pulling vans, working in tea stalls, etc.
The char dwellers are also victims of the severe problem of child marriage and dowry, said the char people.
Moinul Islam, a teacher of the Diyar Manik Char Boyalmari Registered Primary School, told New Age that there is a high rate of drop-out from the school. Currently it has 111 students in Class One and only 41 in Class Five.
‘Almost all the students stop coming to school after completing the primary level,’ he said. ‘There is no high school in our locality. The nearest one is about three kilometres away and others are situated on the other side of the river. Communication is risky and troublesome and costly.’
He also said that child marriage stops educational activities for children, especially girls, of the region.
Moinul said that so far, in 2012, three students of the school got married before completing primary education — Rupa of Class Four and Shema and Zarina of Class Five.
Tamijul Islam of Boyarmari char told New Age that normally children get married between ages of 12 to 16.
He said that dowry was the order of the day for char people. The size of the dowry generally hovers between Tk 40,000 to 50,000.
According to the study, Baseline Survey of Nodi O Jibon-2 Project, conducted by Concern Worldwide Bangladesh and Unnayan Shamannay, which examined the lifestyles of char dwellers in 73 chars of 24 unions in 10 upazilas of Rajshahi, Chapai Nawabganj, Lalmonirhat and Pabna, 66% were illiterate, 29% had studied up to the primary level, 5% to the secondary level and only 1% to the higher secondary level.
According to knowledgeable sources, there are about 5 lakh people in these 73 chars and a total of 60 lakh across the country.
Jahangir Alam, a shopkeeper beside the ghat, said they are deprived of health services and have to rely on village quacks. He said that if someone gets sick there is no end of misery for him or her.
The survey said that about 70 per cent of the char dwellers took treatment from visiting village doctors and/or drug stores, 16 per cent visit upazila hospitals and the rest go to district hospitals and private clinics.
Nazrul Islam of Boyarmari char said he had never heard anything about the government’s family planning programmes.
He also said that women of the locality are deprived of maternity services and have to rely on the age-old system.
‘In most cases during the immunization programme the vaccination workers do not come to our chars,’ he said.
Another baseline survey conducted in 2007 by Concern and Unnayan Shamannay found that 70 per cent of the chars’ women are deprived of maternity services.
SM Tuhinur Alam, Godagari Upazila’s nirbahi officer, told New Age that there could be a lack of monitoring of the service in the area due to the remoteness of the chars, but government officials try their best to serve those people.
Tunhinur said that the government is trying to construct roads in the above-mentioned chars and hoped the situation would change then. He added that he had taken charge about one month ago and would take necessary steps to provide health and education services for char dwellers.
Courtesy of New Age