Bangladesh: Expanding education for refugee children

Bangladesh: Expanding education for refugee children

Authorities in Bangladesh in partnership with the United Nations have expanded educational programs for hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya children living in refugee camps who were receiving only basic lessons.

The children, who fled with their families from neighboring Burma to the camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, attend about 1,500 learning centers run by UNICEF that provide basic education, drawing and other fun activities. Under the new program, which began in April 2020, they also now receive a formal education using a Burmese curriculum from grades six to nine, the U.N. 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 U.N. that the Rohingya children be provided with a Burmese education.

“They will be taught in Myanmar’s [Burma’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 said by phone. “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.”

The U.N. said initially that 10,000 Rohingya children would enroll in a pilot program using the Burmese curriculum, which will allow them to fit into the Buddhist-majority nation’s national educational system when they return to their homeland.

The decision was hailed by human rights groups and the United Nations.

“We believe this is a positive step and a clear indication of the commitment by the government of Bangladesh to ensure access to learning for Rohingya children and adolescents, as well as to equip them with the right skills and capacities for their future and return to Myanmar when the conditions allow,” the U.N. said.

About 400,000 Rohingya children live in the refugee camps, and global rights groups have been demanding that the Bangladeshi government allow them to have a formal education.

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled from Burma to Bangladesh since August 2017, when Burma’s military launched what it called clearance operations in Rakhine state in response to an attack by an insurgent group. Security forces have been accused of committing mass rapes and killings and burning thousands of homes. In total, more than 1 million Rohingya refugees currently live in Bangladesh.  The Associated Press