The government’s move to allow Rohingya children living in the refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar to receive formal education is commendable. Reportedly, the government will soon launch a pilot programme to give formal education to more than 10,000 Rohingya children, the curriculum of which is being jointly designed by the Bangladesh government and UNICEF. According to foreign ministry sources, the refugee children will be schooled in Myanmar history and culture up to age 14, and will also receive skills training so they can find employment in the future.
More than half a million Rohingya children living in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar currently do not have access to formal education. While Bangladesh has shown great generosity in opening its borders and taking in so many refugees fleeing from genocide, it was disheartening to see that even in the camps, these children were being denied their right to education, especially since this was a right that was also denied to them in Myanmar.
According to Amnesty International, Rohingya children have faced severe difficulties in receiving official government education in Myanmar since 2012. After the 2017 military crackdown in Rakhine, the children who fled to Bangladesh facing genocidal violence in Myanmar only received primary education in temporary learning centres set up by UNICEF.
Needless to say, the Rohingya children stranded in the camps will be a lost generation if they grow up without access to formal education. They will be exposed to poverty and all forms of exploitation, including trafficking. There have been reports on how these children may get involved in many criminal activities, including drug smuggling. There are also chances of them being radicalised, or of severe negative impacts on their mental health, as experts fear. Only quality education in the appropriate language and with an accredited curriculum can empower them to claim their rights and contribute to the society and economy they live in.
We commend the government for making this positive commitment to the right to education of Rohingya children, despite the limited resources at their disposal. We also call upon the international community to help Bangladesh, since they have to play a key role here in ensuring that the Bangladesh government has the support required to provide education to such a large population. Without a coordinated and concentrated effort, it will not be possible to ensure that the children in the refugee camps do not lose their childhoods to a state of hopelessness and ignorance.