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Thursday, January 30, 2020

'Great news': Bangladesh allows education for Rohingya children

Aljazeera
2020.01.30

Under new programme, 10,000 Rohingya boys and girls to be enrolled in grades 6 to 9, a move hailed by rights groups.
Rohingya refugee children attend a class to learn Burmese language at a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh [File: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]


Rights groups and activists have welcomed Bangladesh's decision to allow Rohingya children living in sprawling refugee camps to receive a formal education, calling it a "positive step".

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children, who fled a brutal crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar along with their parents in 2017, only receive primary education in temporary learning centres set up by international NGOs and the UN children's agency UNICEF.
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But starting in April, a pilot programme led by the UNICEF and Bangladesh government will initially enrol 10,000 Rohingya boys and girls up to the age of 14 in the sixth to ninth grades, where they will be taught the Myanmar school curriculum and also receive skills training, officials said on Wednesday.

"It is a great news for us," Nay San Lwin, co-founder of Free Rohingya Coalition, told Al Jazeera.
"As of now at least the children can study up to grade 9 and youth can join skill trainings," he said.

More than 145,000 children are getting basic education at a network of 1,600 UNICEF-run small learning centres in the camps in south-eastern Bangladesh, where more than one million Rohingya, nearly half of whom are children, have been living since they fled persecution in Myanmar.

Of them, nearly 750,000 crossed the border after Buddhist-majority Myanmar launched a military crackdown on the mostly-Muslim ethnic group in 2017.

'Chase their dreams'

Human rights groups have long campaigned for the effectively stateless Rohingya children to be allowed access to quality education, warning of the costs of a "lost generation".

"This is an important and very positive commitment by the Bangladeshi government, allowing children to access schooling and chase their dreams for the future. They have lost two academic years already and cannot afford to lose any more time outside a classroom," Saad Hammadi, South Asia campaigner at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

Mahbub Alam Talukder, Bangladesh's refugee, relief and repatriation commissioner, said the government agreed in principle with a proposal from the UN that the Rohingya children be provided with a Myanmar education.


"They will be taught in Myanmar's language, they will follow Myanmar's curriculum, there is no chance to study in formal Bangladeshi schools or to read books in the Bengali language," he told the Associated Press news agency

"There's no scope for them to stay here in Bangladesh for long, so through this approach they will be able to adapt to Myanmar’s society when they go back."

Mostafa Mohammad Sazzad Hossain, a spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Dhaka, said a teacher training programme is being developed.

"Individuals with appropriate academic qualification and experience will be recruited from both Rohingya and Bangladeshi communities and trained as teachers," he told AP.

Myanmar's government has long considered the Rohingya to be migrants from Bangladesh, even though their families have lived in Myanmar for generations.

Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless. They are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights including education.

Last week, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Myanmar to take emergency measures to prevent Rohingya population from genocide.

Rohingya activist Lwin urged the Bangladeshi authorities to create more opportunities for the Rohingya youth, so they can also get a university education.

"Our youth had been blocked accessing university since 2012 in Myanmar," he said.

"They have dreams to be professionals. Their dreams can come true if Bangladesh helps."

Additional reporting by Saba Aziz: @saba_aziz

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