A whole generation of Rohingya children is being denied the opportunity to shape their own future as they face extremely limited access to education in both Myanmar and in refugee camps in Bangladesh, Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (Brouk) said in a report on Thursday.
In Rakhine, Rohingyas have faced serious restrictions on their access to education since 2012, when Myanmar authorities imposed a system of segregation, while Bangladesh authorities also restrict formal education to the refugees, the rights body said.
“Schooling is vital to allowing people to lift themselves and their families out of poverty and to improve their lives. This human right, however, is denied to Rohingya children -- this situation must not be allowed to continue,” said Brouk President Tun Khin in a statement.
The report titled “If You Want to Harm a Community, Just Don't Let Them Study” said Rohingya children are often unable to attend mixed Rakhine-Rohingya schools but are instead kept in separate education facilities where the quality of teaching is extremely poor.
Besides, government teachers often refuse to work in Rohingya schools, or when they do subject students to humiliation and neglect. Thus, more than 73 percent of Rohingyas in Rakhine State self-identify as illiterate today, the report said.
Since 2017, the Myanmar authorities have been targeting teachers and other educated Rohingya -- further aggravating the collective capacity for education. The Bangladeshi authorities also restrict formal education apparently because they do not want to create a “pull factor” for refugees to remain in the country longer term.
Instead, education in the camps is being provided by a range of international and Bangladeshi NGOs as well as community-based organisations. Rohingyas are often taught in informal "temporary learning centres" where the quality of education and curriculum can vary significantly depending on the NGO involved.
Brouk said classrooms in the camps are often severely overcrowded and badly resourced, and recruiting teachers -- in particular women -- remains a serious challenge. There is also a lack of long-term planning around education.
There's a shortage of education opportunities for 15-18-year olds. Some 150,000 children in the camps are still without access to any learning centres altogether, the report mentioned.
Khin said Bangladesh generously opened its borders for the Rohingya and they urged Dhaka to lift “restrictions” in the refugee camps so that Rohingya children could get access to education unhindered.
“Conditions are nowhere safe enough for Rohingyas to return to Myanmar, and refugees are likely to remain in Bangladesh for the long-term. Only by being able to access to education and the job market can Rohingya build a future for themselves and contribute to Bangladeshi society.”
The rights body stresses, however, that the only long-term and viable solution to the crisis lies inside Myanmar that must immediately remove all restrictions on the human rights of Rohingyas, including on access to education and freedom of movement, and grant Rohingya citizenship under national law.
“At the heart of the Rohingyas' lack of access to education are the Myanmar authorities' genocidal policies. Only when this ends will our community be able to live fulfilled life in peace where we can enjoy our human rights.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the Rohingya face the real prospect of extinction in Myanmar -- the international community must ensure that this does not happen.”
Khin also said, “The Rohingyas are suffering from an ongoing genocide, with Myanmar authorities' intent on wiping us out as a people. Now more than ever, we need educated Rohingyas who can act as leaders for the community, but as long as education remains severely restricted this will be impossible. We are facing the prospect of a lost generation.”