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Article

26 Apr 2022

Author:
Corinne Redfern & Ali Ahsan, TIME

Bangladesh: Charities raise concerns over rise in young boys forced into work due to the pandemic

"Tens of Thousands of Boys in Bangladesh Were Forced into Work During the Pandemic. Now School Is Resuming Without Them", 26 April 2022

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When authorities first shuttered Bangladesh’s schools in March 2020, nobody could have anticipated they would remain closed for the following 18 months, in what would go on to become one of the most restrictive school closures in the world....Now, two years on from the first lockdown, child-rights advocates say that tens of thousands of pupils across the country have not returned to school. The majority, they say, are boys ages 12 and above, who during the interim were pushed into full-time work...

...attendance figures for 20 schools across the country collated by TIME reveal that boys accounted for at least 59% of dropouts from March 2020 to November 2021, a gender imbalance confirmed by data from the nonprofit organization BRAC...

...as household incomes across the country plunged by an average of 23% during the first 18 months of the pandemic, many parents say they’re out of alternatives: unless their son goes to work, his siblings won’t be able to eat...

Rekha had never imagined she would be sending her son to work 12-hour days at a glass factory. “But now we are living a devastated life,” she says...

When the pandemic first hit, concern initially focused on girls being forced into marriage...What...hadn’t [been] anticipated was the impact the pandemic would have on the boys...

Despite millions of dollars in foreign aid supporting girls’ education, child-rights advocates in Bangladesh tell TIME they are struggling to summon equal support for the thousands of adolescent boys who have dropped out of school since the outbreak of COVID-19. It’s as if donors are “intentionally blind” to child labor, says Tony Michael Gomes, director of World Vision Bangladesh...

For many parents, the costs of their children’s education have collided with mounting debts, leaving them with few options but to pull their sons from their classrooms. “I felt terrible,” says Helena, whose 11-year-old, Alomgir, threw his exercise books in the trash when she told him he couldn’t return to school in September...

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