The Marma's are the second-largest ethnic community in Bangladesh's Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The CHT are home to 1.5 million people – referred to collectively as the Jummas – and made up from 12 ethnic groups, that all have their own languages, culture, traditions and even religions.
Formerly nationals of the present-day Rakhine State in Myanmar, the Marma people migrated to Chittagong during the 16th and 18th century and had a rather peaceful existence for many decades. However, once Bangladesh achieved its independence from Pakistan in 1971, all of this changed.
In the 1960s and 70s, the country’s majority Bengali Muslims began strategically colonizing the Chittagong Hill Tracts, forcing thousands of the Jumma people (the collective name for all indigenous peoples in the region) of their lands, a displacement made worse by massacres, violence and social unrest. Marmas were forcibly converted from Buddhism to Islam by the government as a means of integrating them into Bangladeshi society. The words "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing" have been used to describe the situation.
This all was supposed to change when the 1997 Peace Accord recognized the rights of the Jumma people over their lands. Although this accord has brought about prior inexistent opportunities for development assistance from the international donor community, the accord itself remains largely unimplemented and the Jumma people are not even acknowledged in the Bangladesh constitution.
Unfortunately, reports of systematic rights violations, religious and sexual violence, land-grabbing and killings continue to be documented by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations up to this day.
Economy and Education
Decades of conflicts, rough hilly terrain and the remoteness of the villages have hampered economic development in the region, resulting in a large number of unemployment and more than half of the population living below the poverty line.
Marmas mostly depend on agriculture, traditionally practicing slash-and-burn cultivation on the hills.
Access to healthcare is difficult, as is the access to education. This is mainly due to the lack of human resources and development assistance and a difficult topography that makes for long and unsafe journeys to school. More than half of the children enrolled in primary schools drop out in the first year because of lack of finances, distance to school, safety issues, not understanding the subject, or needing to stay at home to help their parents.
A small remote village located in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in South-East Bangladesh, on the border to Myanmar and Thailand. It's a stunning region of hills, ravines and cliffs covered with dense jungles of bamboo, creepers and shrubs, and dotted with tall, slender waterfalls.
Representing the second-largest ethnic community in the CHT, the Marmas belief is deeply rooted in Theravada Buddhism, with an emphasis on ritual practices in deities. They also practice animism.
It’s been a long-held vision of ours to build a second school. Over the years we have looked around to find a project that would align with our mission and our values, and we have finally found it.
Through the help of Magical Light Foundation, we have stumbled upon a small remote village located in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in South-East Bangladesh, on the border to Myanmar and Thailand. The village is home to the Marmas.
A New School For 120 ChildrenThe village that we will be concentrating our efforts on already is home to a very small elementary school. Due to its small size, the school can't accommodate all children and many older have to drop out and stop studying to make room for younger students and because there is no possibility for them to continue their education. The nearest junior high school is 15km away, but the parents don’t have the money to pay for daily transportation, the roads are unsafe, and the children are too young yet to stay at the dorms.
That's where we come in.
With our donation the village can build a bigger school building that has room and opportunities for everyone. The older children can keep studying and finish junior high in their village and by then they will be old enough to travel and stay in a dorm near a senior high school in nearby towns. After finishing high school, they can go to university.
The villagers will help build the school, and as many recycled materials as possible will be used to do so. We are responsible for raising 80% to 90% of the funds. The remaining funds will be collected by the villagers either in form of money or building materials and such.
The reason being that involving the villagers in all ways possible ensures that they will take ownership of the school and feel proud that they are the ones who helped build a school for their children.
This school will be different from Somwang School in Thailand, in that it will be registered with the government once it is built. That means that there will be no running costs for MPG as the government will hire and pay the wages for the teachers. The reason being that our partner, Magical Light Foundation, and us agree that one of the main reasons we build schools is for kids to receive an education which will in turn ensure them a future in their country and this can often only be achieved by sitting for the national exam. Privately run schools often face issues when applying for or sitting for national exams as they are not “official” schools, and in this case, might very well interfere with a student's wish to continue their education above the level that we'll be able to offer.
We are only in the beginning phase and will start building the school early December 2018. To ensure the smooth and guaranteed construction of the school we will be continuing to raise funds. So please consider helping us by donating or by taking part in our print sale fundraiser.
Our latest news are regularly put together by our executive board to give you the latest updates on our work and progress.