Ending modern slavery in the tea gardens of Bangladesh
Since the days of British rule, tea companies in Bangladesh have been exempt from many labour regulations. Even after the overhaul of the garment industry in the wake of the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse that killed over 1,100 people, the tea gardens remain exploitative and damaging to the generations of workers who call them home. Tea companies control access to housing, medical facilities and education. Coupled with a paltry income (just 2.5 US cents per kilogram of tea leaves picked), this serves to indenture families to the tea company as they live day-to-day without the resources to improve their lives.
It is estimated that over 700,000 people live in the tea gardens, with more than 100,000 of them being children of school age. Moulovibazar District alone accounts for 90 of the 163 tea plantations in Bangladesh. Almost half of all villages in the tea gardens have no educational facility, which contributes to the shockingly low literacy rate of tea garden children of just 25%. For those that do attend primary school there are limited opportunities to progress to secondary school due to the lack of schools in tea garden areas and the high cost of housing and transportation to attend a government school in a larger town. Only 20% of tea garden children complete their secondary education.
St Marcellin School in Giasnogor opened in January 2017 and is providing secondary education to 96 grade six children. Each year until 2021, the school will add a new year level until grade 10 and a maximum capacity of 480 students is achieved. This will include boarding facilities for 90 girls and 90 boys. The purpose of St Marcellin School is to provide free education and boarding to tea garden children that enables them to break the cycle of poverty and rise above the bonded life that they were born into. The school promotes intercultural and interfaith understanding with children and teachers belonging to 22 different ethnic groups and three major religions
The school building foundations are designed for four levels, with the bottom two currently completed and in operation with seven classrooms, a hall and a staffroom. The first hostel is open and being utilized by 20 female boarders, with numbers growing to 90 in the next three years. In order to sustain the expansion plan, by the end of 2019 St Marcellin School needs to develop the school infrastructure by completing the third and fourth floors, which will provide eight more classrooms, as well as construct a second hostel for 90 students.
Much more needs to be done for the many families of the tea gardens and your continued support will allow the school to offer more grades of education, increasing the schools cohort by approximately 96 students per annum.
There is a better future possible for these children. Donate now and help us end modern slavery.