Refugees in Bangladesh need access to formal education based on the Myanmar curriculum so they can contribute to society once they return.
By SAWYEDDOLLAH | FRONTIER
EDUCATION provides students with the knowledge they need to face the challenges that life brings. It can also make them more aware of the social and economic situation in their country, enabling them to help in building a better future.
Young Rohingya refugees who have been forced to flee northern Rakhine State want the chance to do just that. We want to continue our education so that we can make a useful contribution to our country, Myanmar, when we return. The right to an education is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we do not understand why we are being denied this right.
I was born in December 2000. I was a Grade 11 student when violence escalated in August 2017, forcing me and many others to leave our homes in northern Rakhine soon afterwards. With the support of the authorities in Bangladesh, I have served as a leader in my camp since October 2017, so I am familiar with the challenges that the refugee community – particularly its youth – faces.
There are more than one million Rohingya refugees in the camps near Cox’s Bazar, of whom around half are thought to be under the age of 18. That means that there are many, like me, who have had their education interrupted. Our lives are extremely difficult. Education would bring us hope, but the present situation is destroying the lives of school-age refugees, and destroying the future of the Rohingya.
During the past 19 months donors have given millions of dollars towards the provision of education in the camps, and there have been repeated calls from a range of voices to address the current gap. So far, though, we have seen little sign of improvement.
We are, of course, thankful for the assistance that the international community has provided us, in terms of food, shelter and much else. But the lack of educational support makes us feel that they do not care about providing this fundamental human right. It creates the perception that local and international non-government organisations are mainly interested in ensuring a long-term role for themselves in the camps, rather than helping Rohingya communities.
There are many such NGOs in the camps. Though some of them have experience in providing education, there are no opportunities for middle school and high school students to learn. There are no formal schools in the camps, only child-friendly learning centres where each of the NGOs has their own curriculum.
We worry that the next generation of Rohingya will suffer because of a lack of education. But we don’t need just any education: we need the Myanmar curriculum. There is no future for us in Bangladesh; it is not our country and we have no idea how long we will be allowed to stay. Myanmar is our home.
If Bangladesh is prohibiting international organisations from providing the Myanmar curriculum to Rohingya students, then those organisations have a responsibility to push back against this restriction. Karen refugees in Thailand are able to study the Myanmar curriculum, so why can’t we?
Our future is in jeopardy. Who will give us the education we need for a better future? We see that the international community, who are not family members, are not helping us to receive a formal education. Will the people of our country, the members of the Myanmar family, remain silent? Will they help to ensure we have the opportunity to have a formal education?