The Rohingya youth have called upon the international community to ensure that the refugee children do not become a “lost generation” without education or future.
At the annual Global Education and Skills Forum organised by the Varkey Foundation, a global charity on child education, in Dubai from March 23 to 24, Ahmed Ullah and Zainab Arkani said their young people have been left with little hope of educating themselves out of poverty.
Ahmed Ullah, a youth coordinator of the Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative, said, “I am begging every single one of you ... you can change those lives. I am proof that refugees can do anything as long as you give them a chance.”
At the event attended by an international audience of delegates, educators and government officials, he said, “They just want an opportunity to contribute to society," reports The National, a UAE-based newspaper.
More than 740,000 Rohingyas fled military campaign in Myanmar's Rakhine State since August 2017, joining some 300,000 other Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar. Around 500,000 of them are children lacking any formal education. Only 180,00 of them have informal learning facilities in the refugee camps, according to Unicef.
“Why can't we give Rohingya kids the hope that they can go to university and build something for their people?” Ahmed asked.
Even before the 2017 campaign, Rohingyas had lived in poor conditions and were victimised by the authorities.
“I remember being kicked out of school,” Ahmed said, adding that he was told to survive on his own. “I got a job in a coffee shop.”
He has since returned to witness conditions in the camps. He recalled how one Rohingya child told him he wants to become a lawyer to get justice for his people.
Zainab Arkani described the abuse she suffered and told of how she was persecuted for being Muslim at a school in Myanmar.
“I was lucky I was among the one percent who went to school because 99 percent did not have the chance to go to school.”
Arkani, who moved to Canada and started the only Rohingya school in her basement, spoke powerfully of the need for vocational training and to build an education system for the Rohingya people.
At the programme, Asif Saleh, senior director at Brac, said a large portion of the Rohingya youth and children are out of education in the refugee camps, and that the donor fatigue is setting in, with only about 40 percent of the current year's need of over $600 million met.
It's imperative that the Rohingya children should get education and skills for their future, he added.
Meanwhile, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), an international rights group based in Geneva, and Myanmar-based Progressive Voice have called for the situation in Myanmar to be referred to the International Criminal Court.
The call comes after the adoption of the resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar on March 22 at the 40th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The resolution recalls the UN Security Council's authority to refer the situation in Myanmar to the ICC.
It reiterated the “urgent need to ensure that all those responsible for crimes under international law, in particular in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states, are held to account through credible and independent national or international criminal justice mechanisms.”