With over 150 diseases in the Rohingya communities in Bangladesh, we see another refugee crises that is slowly turning deadly.
According to the UNHRW report that conducted 163 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, including over 100 children, as well as government officials, humanitarian education actors, and Bangladeshi teachers and children in host communities, the barrier to schooling for Rohingya refugee children is not a lack of resources, but the government’s policy of deliberate deprivation of education in pursuit of its efforts to prevent the refugees from integrating.
With this, the Bangladesh government is violating its international obligations by denying refugee children a formal, certified education; secondary-school-level education; access to Bangladeshi schools outside the camps; instruction in the Bengali language; and adequate school buildings.
The Bangladesh government’s insistence that the refugees will return to Myanmar has led it to prohibit humanitarian groups from constructing permanent, brick-and-mortar school buildings in the refugee camps. Barred from opening schools, NGOs have since 2017 constructed about 3,000 “learning centers”: small, temporary bamboo structures that can accommodate up to 40 children at a time. Many learning centers “have rotted already and need to be replaced, since the little worms have been doing their work on the bamboo,” as a humanitarian official noted.
Due to the lack of space in the crowded camps limits the number of learning centers that can be built, most learning centers operate three daily “shifts,” of just two hours each, in order to reach a larger number of children. Designs for sturdier, two-story bamboo structures, which could accommodate more students using the same amount of land, had not yet been piloted when the 2019 monsoon season began. As of August 2019, only about 1,600 out of 3,000 learning centers had bathrooms or potable water nearby; none that Human Rights Watch visited had electricity, desks or chairs. Furthermore, the government only took steps to accelerate education when under immense pressure during UNHCR meetings and official reports as they continue to dismiss Rohingya education as a political priority.
However, with extensive support from the UNICEF and other independent partners, the state of education in Rohingya has drastically improved over the recent years.
The breakthrough for Rohingya refugee children living in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps in Bangladesh sees the first 10,000 children enrolled to receive education based on the national curriculum of their home country Myanmar. Alongside that, UNICEF has placed priority on improving education for children by taking measurable steps to expand curriculum, enrol more students and facilitate better educational facilities and environments.
While the Rohingya children still struggle for accredited education under the Bangladeshi educational board, the acceleration of informal education at local UN-funded schools and improved distribution of books have been helpful in raising the refugee literacy rates. To combat the issue of non-accredited education, the UN pivoted from its Learning Competency Framework Approach (LCFA), which is a largely informal learning system that covers levels one to four and caters primarily to children aged 4-14, to the Myanmar national curriculum which provides Rohingya refugee children with formal and standardised education. In addition, the Myanmar Curriculum fills a critical secondary education gap: It provides schooling for older children who have largely lacked access to education. By bringing this education system to Bangladesh, the UN reignites hope for refugees for a safe future back in Myanmar, hopefully after the country’s government is brought to justice for its 2017 Rohingya Genocide.
Despite much progress, approximately 100,000 school-aged Rohingya refugee children are still not in school. UNICEF and partners are working to reach out to these children and to remove the barriers that prevent them from going to school. Private and community-based learning facilities that meet the needs of both boys and girls, and which are operated with sufficient oversight, could also play a role in providing educational services. UNICEF engages with all stakeholders who play a role in the effort to provide Rohingya refugee children with equitable and inclusive access to standardised education.