Irish Government needs to use its influence to exercise pressure on Bangladesh to reverse disastrous decision of closure of community schools for Rohingya refugee children
By Anthony Hannon
On International Day of Education, spare a thought for the Rohingya community living in refugee camps and the decision by the Bangladesh government, in December 2021, to close community schools. Unless this decision is overturned, approximately 30,000 children will lose their access to any form of education.
The Bangladesh government saved countless lives when it opened its borders to the Rohingya community fleeing genocide by Myanmar’s military in August 2017. However, as part of a policy to prevent refugees from integrating in the country, the authorities barred Rohingya children’s access to public and private schools. They also severely restricted the education programs that humanitarian groups could provide inside the refugee camps.
The officially accepted schools or learning centres are over crowded and could not cater for the demand. Recognising the importance of education, members of the community within the camps established community schools. These basic, home-based schools are essential to access learning and psychosocial support, with girls making up approximately 84% of the students. The schools are especially crucial for adolescents, who are too old to attend the officially approved learning centres and have few other education options. It is these community schools that the Bangladesh government are now forcing to close leaving thousands of children without any access to education.
The reason why they are forcing to close these schools is unclear. Not alone, however, is it cruel and unnecessary, it is also self-defeating. The Rohingya community want to return to Myanmar when it is safe to do so. This is in line with Bangladeshi government policy. The education being provided in the schools allow Rohingya to study the formal Myanmar curriculum. The decision to close the schools will make it more difficult for the students to return to Myanmar and integrate back into Myanmar society.
This decision is yet another kick in the teeth for the Rohingya community and is a cause of great distress, not just to those in the camps, but for the Rohingya community around the world, including those Living in Carlow. Many have friends and family living in the camps and they are dismayed that, after all they have been endured, the basic act of receiving an education is now being cruelly denied. For all of the pain they have endured, many Rohingya believe the single-biggest loss is the denial of the sense of stability and hope that comes with education.
I am asking the Irish Government to use your influence at the UN, on the UNSC and within the EU to exercise pressure on the Bangladesh government to reverse this disastrous decision. Instead of closing the schools they need to be supported to be able to offer the quality education the Rohingya community deserve. Having endured and survived years of oppression and genocide and living in cramped and unsafe camps, the very least that the Rohingya deserve is the flicker of hope that access to education can provide to oppressed communities.
Further information is available at the links below:
Bangladesh: Rohingya Refugee Schools Face Closure | Human Rights Watch (hrw.org)
The New Humanitarian | Rohingya education: A teacher pushes to save refugee-run schools in Bangladesh camps