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Silent Crisis: Exploring the Alarming Increase in Dropout Rates in Sundarban Schools

The Sundarbans, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site, is home to many stories of struggle, resilience, and hope.

Sohini’s Story of Dropping Out of School and Early Marriage in Sundarbans

We start with the story of Sohini, a young girl from the Gosaba block who had to drop out of school and was married off early. 

I always wanted to be a teacher and do something for the kids here in Sundarbans. I miss my school days. Sometimes I wish I could study more, I want my daughter to study, and go to college. I don’t want her to face similar consequences.” 

Sohini's Story of Dropping Out of School

Her dream of becoming a teacher and making a difference in her community was cut short due to the poor living conditions and her family’s financial struggles. 

Yet, even in the face of adversity, Sohini’s determination to ensure a better future for her daughter is evidence of the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Sohini’s story is just one example of the challenges faced by many in Sundarbans, a region rich in natural beauty but plagued by poverty and hardship. 

The delta island of Sundarbans is plagued by poverty, poor infrastructure, inadequate sanitation, and climate change, which have forced many children like Sohini to drop out of school. Here’s another heart-wrenching story of Sourav that is a stark reminder of the deep inequalities that still exist in our world today. 

From Dreams to Despair: The Harsh Realities of Sourav Mondal’s Life in Sundarban

Sourav Mondal at the tender age of eight lost the one person who meant everything to him – his father. Left to fend for himself and his family, he was raised by his mother in the remote village of Mathurakhanda in the Gosaba block of Sundarban. Despite having the potential to excel in his studies, Sourav was forced to abandon his dreams of education due to financial constraints. He had to leave his village and migrate to Tamil Nadu to work as a laborer to make ends meet.

As if this wasn’t enough, his family was struck by a cruel twist of fate when the pandemic hit. They were already struggling to put food on the table, and the lockdown only exacerbated their misery. 

I have to work in another city for my family. I have a sister, who also dropped out of school and got married, as we were unable to arrange meals to survive. We suffered a hard time during the lockdown. My mother is the only person I can call family, and sometimes she works as a laborer in agricultural fields to make ends meet,”  

Sourav Mondal's Life in Sundarban

Sourav’s mother, who had been a pillar of strength, also had to take up grueling work in agricultural fields just to keep the family afloat. And yet, despite all their efforts, they continue to live in poverty and struggle to survive. Their lives have been robbed of the opportunities and joys that most take for granted. 

What Are the Causes of Drop Out Rates in Sundarbans?

PayBito team in its survey for the “Brokering World Hunger Away” campaign observed that the majority of the women on the island have little to no education. The predicament of dropouts is nothing new in the villages of Sundarbans. While poverty was a primary concern, climate change has made a fair share of impact on the children’s education on the island. 

  • Mid-Day Meals: A Crucial Lifeline for Sundarbans Students, But Only Until Class 8

The harsh reality of life in the Sundarbans is that the average family income is a meager three thousand rupees per month($36), leaving many children unable to continue their education beyond class eight. 

The government’s mid-day meal program, which provides crucial nutrition to many children, only covers students up to class eight. This, coupled with the pressure on girls to marry early and boys to seek daily wage work outside the village, means that many children in Sundarbans are denied the opportunity to pursue their dreams and break the cycle of poverty. The situation is bleak, and the future is uncertain for these children who face such challenges at a young age.

The poverty rate in Sundarbans is alarming, with 98% of families living below the poverty line. This has led to a range of challenges for children in the region, including extreme malnutrition and inadequate access to clean drinking water. These challenges threaten the health and well-being of young people in Sundarbans and make it difficult for them to break the cycle of poverty. 

  • Lack of Government Support and Resources

Access to education in the Sundarbans is largely reliant on the efforts of CSR initiatives and non-profit organizations. 

Local resident Mr. Swapan and his team, with the help of well-wishers like Amal Nayek, have set up a school in the village to provide opportunities for children to learn and have a brighter future. Despite their best efforts, however, the lack of government support and resources has made it challenging to keep children in school. With limited funding, the school struggles to provide even basic necessities like books and uniforms. 

Additionally, the lack of separate washrooms for boys and girls is a significant obstacle, particularly for young girls, resulting in higher dropout rates. The dedication of people like Mr. Swapan and his team is critical in ensuring that children in Sundarbans have access to education, but it is clear that more support is needed from the government and other agencies to address the region’s educational challenges.

  • Lack of Menstrual Products: Robbing Girls of Their Future

In Sundarbans, menstruation is a major cause of dropouts among girls. Millions of girls and women lack access to basic necessities such as decent toilets and clean water to manage menstruation. The PayBito team, on a mission to eradicate hunger in the area, observed this issue and recognized the need to address it to promote gender equality and ensure that girls have access to education. Breaking the silence and stigma surrounding menstruation is crucial to provide girls and women with the resources they need to manage their menstrual hygiene and live with dignity.

In Sundarbans, girls drop out of school or miss classes due to a lack of decent toilets and sanitation facilities. Despite government efforts, the situation remains inadequate. Managing periods, accessing clean water, and proper disposal shouldn’t be a burden on women. According to a UNESCO report, one in three people worldwide lacks access to clean water, toilets, and sanitary napkins. This is a major cause of high dropout rates among women in Sundarbans. Improving access to basic necessities is crucial to ensure that girls have equal opportunities for education and better livelihoods.

The Shrinking Islands of Sundarbans 

The Sundarbans forest is a unique and diverse ecosystem located on the delta formed by three major rivers on the Bay of Bengal. This vast forest is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, including the majestic Royal Bengal Tiger, Irrawaddy dolphins, over 200 bird species, Indian Pythons, endemic river terrapins, and Estuarine Crocodiles. Despite being threatened by human activities such as deforestation, poaching, and pollution, the Sundarbans remain a critical habitat for many species and an important part of the natural heritage of the world.

Shrinking Islands of Sundarbans

The Sundarbans is a haven for bird watchers, with its diverse avian population making it a popular destination for tourists from around the world. However, the islands that make up this unique ecosystem are facing multiple challenges, including a shrinking landmass and a growing population. Only 54 of the over 100 islands are inhabited, with five million people living in the Sundarbans. The residents of these islands face significant challenges, including a lack of access to food and fresh water, as well as the constant threat of deadly cyclones and floods. The unique flora and fauna of the Sundarbans are at risk, as is the way of life of the people who call these islands home.

Paybito Brings Hope to Sundarbans: Helping Poor Kids Build a Brighter Future

Dropouts in the Sundarbans have been a persistent problem, particularly for children living in poverty. Many families struggle to afford the basic necessities of life, let alone pay for their children’s education. Climate change, on the other hand, has only exacerbated the situation, with rising sea levels, cyclones, and floods causing widespread damage and disruption to infrastructure, including schools. This has made it even harder for children to attend school regularly and complete their education, resulting in high dropout rates. While efforts are being made to address the issue, more needs to be done to ensure that every child in the Sundarbans has access to quality education and the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty.

As the challenges in Sundarbans become more pressing, there are many organizations working to help the people and the environment of this unique ecosystem. One such organization is Paybito, which has launched a “Brokering World Hunger Away” movement that is making a positive impact on the lives of the children in the Sundarbans. Through various programs and initiatives, Paybito is working to provide food, education, and other critical resources to the children in the region. Paybito is addressing the root causes of poverty and hunger to create a brighter future for the children of the Sundarbans. They are playing an important role in the efforts to preserve this vital ecosystem for generations to come.

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