Despatch from Cox’s Bazar | International

Teaching Rohingya children in Bangladesh

Rohingya refugee boys who study in an Islamic school smile as they react to the camera at a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain  

It is universally accepted that education plays a key role in every child’s development, but it is even more critical for the displaced Rohingya children, adolescents and youth. Without adequate opportunities for learning and hope for the future, they are more vulnerable to trafficking, child marriage, exploitation and abuse.

Rohingya children in Bangladesh camps are unable to follow a path to formal education, deprived of the skills they desperately need to prepare for an uncertain future. Until now, the government had resisted calls to grant those children access to education, limiting learning opportunities to a few provisional centres that offer playtime and early primary school lessons scattered across the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. A few children who managed to gain access to local secondary schools were expelled on the government’s instructions. Restrictions on formal education loomed as a major controversy. That now looks to change.

Last month, the UN and other aid agencies welcomed Bangladesh’s decision to expand access to education for Rohingya children and adolescents living in Cox’s Bazar, now home to about 1 million displaced people.

A child reading a book at a makeshift school run by Rohingya teachers in Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in 2019.

A child reading a book at a makeshift school run by Rohingya teachers in Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in 2019.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS


In line with the government’s decision, a pilot programme to introduce Myanmar’s curriculum in the refugee camps will begin in April, initially targeting 10,000 students in grades 6 to 9 with a team of 210 teachers and later expanding to other grades in a phased manner, according to the UN.

“These efforts will help to accelerate an expansion of education particularly to older children, make the content of education more relevant for refugees and allow us to more comprehensively meet the educational wishes of the Rohingya people,” the UN said.

In Myanmar’s Rakhine State, the UN and partners will also, to the extent possible, continue to provide educational support and assistance to Rohingya and other affected communities.

To date, informal education has been provided to 3,24,000 Rohingya children aged 4 to 14 years. In addition, over 10,000 Rohingya adolescents aged 15 to 18 years have received literacy, numeracy, life-skills and vocational skills training. That was far from adequate for a generation with lost hope.

Human rights organisations have been campaigning for the nearly half a million Rohingya children in Bangladesh to be allowed to enjoy their right to quality education. “The UN agencies will now have to work on the operational mechanism, including resources such as teachers, textbooks and infrastructure required to offer quality education to the Rohingya children. It is time for the international community to ensure that Bangladesh has the resources and support needed to deliver on its commitment, and that quality education is available to Bangladeshi children as well,” Saad Hammadi, South Asia campaigner at Amnesty International, said in an interview.

Call for support

Recently, Amnesty International launched a petition calling on governments to support Bangladesh in educating Rohingya children. It also released a music video on the occasion of the International Day of Education, appealing to the world to support the cause. Bangladeshi hip-hop lyricist and musician Mahmud Hasan, nicknamed Tabib, and child artist Rana Mridha, who became popular on YouTube for their songs promoting education of underprivileged children, lent their voices to the song. The video shot in the Rohingya camps has emerged as a compelling appeal for “education for all”, renewing global attention to the once-neglected issue.

“As humanity is not limited to the confines of any one race or border, supporting education of the oppressed Rohingya children is all of our responsibility,” Mr. Hasan, who studies Arabic language and literature at Dhaka University, said. Excerpt from the lyrics of the Bangla song released with English subtitles reads, “If all children today are enlightened with education, the future of the world will be bright. Otherwise, it will be a mistake, injustice will increase. They will be silenced by the rage of the sinners.”

After thousands of refugees descended on the border two-and-a-half-years ago, Bangladesh and the rest of the world immediately responded to the crisis with food and shelter.

However, as the refugee crisis is still dragging, children and young people are clamouring for more than survival; they want quality education that can provide a path to a more hopeful future.

(Arun Devnath is a journalist based in Dhaka)

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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 9:09:06 AM |

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