More than four million children are out of school which is 23% of the total number of children aged six to 10 years in Bangladesh, according to Unicef.

Of them, two million have never gone to school, 1.9 million got delayed admission and 0.4 million have dropped out.

Out-of-school children were found in almost all the districts, with the highest concentration in Bandarban, Sunamganj, Bhola, Netrokona and Cox’s Bazar and the lowest in Jhalokati, Barguna, Pirojpur, Feni and Jessore.

Children engaged in labour in Bangladesh are mainly employed in agriculture, industry and service sectors.

Of the one million children aged 10-14 years engaged in labour, the services and agriculture sectors employ the highest 407,000 (41%) and 390,000 (39%), respectively.

Industry employed about 202,000 (20%) children, nearly half of the services sector.

The prevalence of child marriage continues to be very high with over half of the women aged between 20 and 24 years getting married before their 18th birthday and one in five marrying before 15, according to Unicef, MICS, 2013.

In this backdrop, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) and Unicef Bangladesh yesterday launched three policy briefs on child marriage, child labour and out-of-school children in Dhaka yesterday.

The policy briefs made a number of recommendations including monitoring and increasing education and social protection budgets; improving and extending a social protection system that is sensitive to family poverty and the needs of children; and ensuring all girls attend school and complete secondary education.

Progress for children in Bangladesh is often being delayed because of the interlink between out-of-school children, child marriage and child labour along with particular disparities pertaining to those areas, the policy briefs highlighted.

Speaking at the event, Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal underscored the need for addressing the issues at the macro level and said: “We must launch a massive awareness programme across the country to eliminate the problems.”

About child marriage, he said that the benchmark for marriage in the country would not be below 18 years.

State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Meher Afroze Chumki said the government’s final decision is that women cannot be married before 18.

Executive director of the Campaign for Popular Education (CAMPE), Rasheda K Choudhury, urged the government to transfer the issue of the education of the physically challenged children to the Ministry of Education from the Ministry of Social Welfare.

Unicef Bangladesh Representative Edouard Beigbeder said: “We must ensure that we are able to maximise the benefits of all the investments that the country has made in improving the lives of children in their first decade, and put in place policies and programmes to continue improving their wellbeing in the second decade of life.”