Amnesty International (AI) yesterday called upon the international community, including states and donors, to draw attention to the quality of education and increase support for Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh, so that they do not become a lost generation.
“Education is not at odds with repatriation,” AI’s South Asia Campaigner Saad Hammadi said at the opening ceremony of a six-day exhibition featuring selected drawings by 160 Rohingya children at Edward M Kennedy Center in the capital.
“If the Bangladesh government affords these children with a standard curriculum and certification which acknowledges their academic qualification, these children can contribute to economies irrespective of where they are,” Hammadi said, reading out a written speech.
The exhibition -- titled “When I Grow Up” -- marking World Refugee Day and supported by Unicef and EMK Center, is the outcome of a two-day art camp in Cox’s Bazar with Rohingya children.
The children, with help from six artists, painted their aspirations about what they wish to be when they grow up.
Some shared they wish to become teachers because they feel education is important; some would like to become doctors because of the disease outbreaks that doctors have prevented when they came to the camps in Bangladesh, said Hammadi.
Referring to AI research, he further said Rohingya children have faced severe difficulties in receiving official government education in Myanmar since 2012, partly because Muslim students in central Rakhine state are not allowed to study in mixed government schools with ethnic Rakhine children.
The art camp and exhibition are part of AI’s campaign to increase local and international support for Rohingya children’s education that follows an accredited curriculum, which would be globally acceptable.
It will continue to travel around other countries where AI has operations, to generate interest from donors, Hammadi said.
“The children living in refugee camps have already lost so much, they should not also lose their childhoods,” he added.
Close to one third of over 300,000 Rohingya children aged between four and 14 do not have access to education; the remainder have access to informal education, according to an AI handout.
Unicef together with the education sector, introduced the Learning Competency Framework and Approach (LCFA) in January 2019 to provide more structured learning in the refugee camps with a view to match international standards with formal school grades, it said.
However, restrictions on the use of the national curriculum in Bangladesh means that Rohingya children’s education will continue to be informal for now, without approval of an accredited curriculum, it added.
“Until a long-term solution for the Rohingya crisis is found, we must unite and strengthen efforts to improve the lives of Rohingya refugee children,” Dara Johnston, Unicef’s acting deputy representative in Bangladesh, said at the programme.
Addressing the event, Nahida Sobhan, director general (United Nations wing) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Rohingya children lost out on their future three or four years back, when the Myanmar authorities started barring them from entering into formal education in the northern Rakhine state.
“What we are trying to do today should have been done three years back in the northern Rakhine state,” she said, stressing on the need to look into the root cause of the Rohingya crisis, and calling for building upon a solution.
On their repatriation, the foreign ministry official said Rohingyas are always looking to go back and this is where the Bangladesh government stand.
“We need to ensure their return with dignity and their rights back to the place from where they came from,” she added.
Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Hiroyasu Izumi said, “We should not create any lost generation in the Rohingyas.”
Education is very important for children. When Rohingya children grow up, they will tend to seek answer to the question -- what happened to them and their parents, he said.
Audrey Hsieh, human rights officer at the US Embassy in Bangladesh, spoke at the event, among others.