That’s how messed up things are in the world. Many of the 19 girls that we know who just found out that they failed their SSC exams (after the 10th grade) will soon face tremendous pressure to give up their education dreams and simply get married as children. They already were facing an uphill battle, struggling to stay in school in villages where the norm has always been to marry early. And now, with “proof” that school doesn’t work for their daughter, many parents will simply decide that now is the time to give up and give their daughter away in an illegal child marriage. It happens every year, and it will happen again to thousands of girls in Bangladesh and beyond. 

Since their results came out this past week, we have talked to several of these 19 young women, and of course they are incredibly sad and frustrated. Tomorrow 13 of them will come together with our staff to talk about next steps, and we will do all that we can to help them. Here in Bangladesh they cannot simply continue on to the 11th grade; they have to sit out an entire year, retake the subject tests that they failed, and if they pass that subject they can continue on. So if they want to continue on with their schooling they will spend an entire year waiting for one test, their entire life hopes resting on a 3-4 hour exam in April 2020.

Until then, we hope that we can set up individualized plans to help all 19 take strong next steps, whether that means going into an alternative education or vocational training program for a while, or spending the next year preparing for the 2020 SSC exams. So many questions that we need to resolve for each girl:

  1. What does she want to do ? 
  2. Do her parents support her continuing her education or will they want to marry her off now ?
  3. Is she at risk of harming herself ?
  4. What other options are there for her besides traditional school ?
  5. Might she want to come live in our dormitory for a year, and if so what would she do all year ?

Thankfully, 156 out of 175 young women in our GEP passed their SSC exams and will joyfully continue on to the 11th grade. But we worry about our 19 friends who now have a very difficult roadblock ahead of them. And we are trying to have the funds and creative option and support available for them to make good choices for the coming years. So tough, especially then the default option for many will be simply to get married off as if they are worth nothing more than being a child bride and sent away to a man they don’t know. 

Let’s create a new reality for girls who struggle.