Students of Polashbari Girls' High School and Polashbari Paroshmoni High School in Nilphamari Sadar upazila attended an NGO-sponsored programme during their school hours yesterday as the authorities sent them there, suspending regular classes.
Visiting the programme venue Polashbari playground at about 11:00am yesterday, this correspondent saw students of the two schools gathering there.
Several students said they came to the programme at the directive of their teachers.
"We sent students to the meeting venue after suspending classes, as the organisers persuaded us, saying that the meeting was arranged to create awareness against child marriage," Akbar Ali, headmaster of Polashbari Parashmoni High School, said.
NGO Udayankur Seba Sangstha organised the programme under the banner of 'Kishore Kishori Forum', a platform of adolescents in Polashbari and a few other unions of Sadar upazila, formed as part of the NGO's project titled 'Promote gender equality through local knowledge and people's initiative'.
"Under the project funded by international donor agency Diaconia, we arrange training programmes, conduct awareness campaigns and provide material and financial support to the forum members," said Alauddin Ali, executive director of the NGO.
Nilphamari Deputy Commissioner Zakir Hossain was present as chief guest and Superintendent of Police Jobaidul Islam, Public Prosecutor Akkhaya Kumar and Woman Affairs Officer Nurunnahar Begum attended as special guests at the programme presided over by the chairman of Polashbari union parishad.
Speakers stressed the need to prevent child marriage with cooperation from all sections of people.
After the meeting, a procession paraded Nilphamari-Domar road.
Contacted, DC Zakir Hossain said, "The initiative of sending students to the meeting should be considered with liberal attitude as the programme was a good intentioned one."
Monazzini Khanam, project coordinator of Udayankur Seba Sangstha, said, "Our organisation did not pursue teachers to send students to the programme venue. We provided cooperation to 'Kishore Kishori Forum' to arrange it and they persuaded school authorities to make the programme successful."
"It is illegal to suspend classes in any educational institution for sending students to any programme," said Deputy Director of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education in Rangpur region Rafiqul Islam.