Experts, at a programme on Sunday, expressed concern over the rising rate of school dropouts and child marriages owing to the closure of educational institutions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The crisis might deepen if there is a further delay in reopening schools, they also said.
They were addressing a digital dialogue organised by BRAC, marking International Day of the Girl, reads a press release.
The rate of child marriage has increased by 220 per cent over the period July-September during the ongoing pandemic. Bangladesh is among the top 10 countries in terms of child marriage rate, it added.
Regarding reopening schools, Education minister Dipu Moni, said "Not only are the government, but many non-government institutions taking online classes. So, it is not mandatory for students to go to classes. In many countries, schools have been shut after reopening. We need to consider every aspect before deciding on reopening our educational institutions."
The minister further said, "The government is repurposing our curriculum to tackle all sorts of challenges, including the Covid-19 crisis. Important topics such as repression of women and sexual violence are being included in our curriculum."
BRAC executive director Asif Saleh said, "A research in Pakistan shows a five-month closure of schools has pushed students backwards by 14 months. We need to consider this in terms of our country."
"We can consider reopening schools in districts where the rate of infection is lower. Non-government entities are ready to assist the government in this regard."
Rasheda K Choudhury, executive director of Campaign for Popular Education (Campe) said, "School closure has affected both our students and teachers. Before reopening schools, we need to concentrate on the related data and reality."
Prof Sadeka Halim said, "We need to think about what can be done for about 43% of families who have been forced under the poverty line, and these families have a large number of students who go to schools, colleges and universities."
The British High Commission's Tahera Jabeen said, "We need a guideline for our children, and their families must be included as a stakeholder. The government, non-government and donor agencies must act in this regard."
Amena Begum of Bangladesh Police Women Network (Bpwn) said, "Sometimes parents forcefully marry their girls early. To prevent early marriage people can avail services from police by dialing 999."
Australian High Commission in Dhaka's First Secretary Simon Barclay said, "Staying away from schools already increases the risks of dropping out. However, their return should not be at the cost of their life, so health issues must be addressed."