Tea plantation workers are one of the most disadvantaged social groups in Bangladesh. They belong to different ethnic groups, each with their own language: Garo, Kashia, Bengali, Munda, Santal, Kondo, Uriah, Tripura and Anglo. They should have special attention from the government, but unfortunately they remain socially excluded, are mostly illiterate, receive very low wages (about 69 taka per day, i.e. 69 euro cents), and are marginalised and isolated. In the huts inside the plantations they seem to live on islands, detached from the rest of the population that often treats them as ‘untouchables’. They have no access to education and do not speak Bengali. At the same time, they have difficulty maintaining a sense of belonging to their community and culture of origin. All this makes them vulnerable to exploitation and even more marginalised.

Poor housing conditions, low wages, long working hours and social discrimination deprive workers and their families of the satisfaction of basic needs. The daily diet is very poor and living conditions are poor, especially with regard to water supply and sanitation. This together with the lack of education is at the root of the spread of diseases, especially among children. The existing primary schools, most built by the plantation owners, others by the government and some run by NGOs, remain few in comparison to the number of children and adolescents in the area, and secondary schools are minimal in number. The education provided also remains a problem due to the poor training of teachers. Most children drop out of school before the end of the school term to help their parents with their labour as labourers or do not acquire the necessary basic training. These conditions mean that the children of tea workers have no alternative but to become tea workers in the future.

AIM OF THE PROGRAMME:

The project was established to ensure access to education for the children of the poor and marginalised population of tea plantation workers (Tea Garden) in Sylhet district in the northern region of Bangladesh.

The programme is based on three pillars: -Development of secondary education in the area -Improvement of the quality of teaching and learning outcomes for vulnerable children -Development and sensitisation of the local community in particular for the right to education of girls.

The project stems from the collaboration with the Catholic Diocese of Sylhet, which has developed a network of primary schools in 35 tea plantation communities, but from the beginning has included the involvement of Muslim and Hindu groups to encourage better integration and interreligious dialogue starting with the younger generation. This educational programme directly benefits 400 boys and girls aged 12 to 17 and their families, local primary and secondary school teachers following retraining programmes, and indirectly affects over 10,000 people living in the tea garden communities.

Currently, 41% of the students in the programme are girls, 59% boys, of these 215 Christians, 130 Hindus, 130 Muslims 49 and belonging to 37 different ethnic groups.

Thanks to the project, the drop-out rate of girls, who due to poverty, social norms, including the traditional practice of forced early marriages, are often excluded from school, has been greatly reduced. The project ensures their participation in classes through the presence of a hospitality structure for those of them from remote areas. In addition, awareness-raising activities aimed at the community and family visits are carried out regularly.

In response to the poor quality of the children’s nutrition and the spread of disease, a nutrition programme and training of mothers is also carried out.

During the Covid emergency, food parcels were distributed to families in particular need.

THE PROGRAMME IN BRIEF:

The aim of the project is to improve access to secondary education for boys and girls from poor and marginalised families working on tea plantations in the Giasnogor – Moulovibazar area, with a focus on promoting access to school for girls.

THE PROGRAMME IN NUMBERS:

  • 400 children and adolescents per year have access to secondary education
  • 35 teachers per year retrained in teaching and trained in children’s rights and protection
  • 600 families reached by the programme to improve nutrition and training of mothers

Sustainable Development Goals: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Laudato Sì Goals: 2, 7