Bangladesh's government must urgently take steps to support the community-led learning facilities in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar and strengthen their resources in line with the country's international commitment to protect children's right to education, 25 undersigned organisations said in a statement on Thursday (28 April).
About 30 community-led schools have been shut down or dismantled by the authorities since December 2021. The closure of community learning facilities in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh is detrimental to the community's development and a gross violation of children's right to education which puts them at the risk of becoming a lost generation.
Nearly half a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children, who constitute 52% of the refugees registered in the camps. They have been deprived of access to education in an accredited curriculum since they sought refuge in Bangladesh in August 2017, the statement added.
In January 2020, Bangladesh's government made a promise to introduce the Myanmar curriculum for about 10,000 children from grades six to nine. The Rohingya community has been offering education to their children through the community schools due to a delay in the rollout of the program by more than two years since Bangladesh's government announced its plan.
Rohingya refugees said that some schoolteachers were detained by the Armed Police Battalion (APBn) and released in exchange of signing a paper with the condition that they will stop teaching.
"It is not a crime to teach students and show them the right path of life. It is a basic human right," said a Rohingya community teacher.
Rights groups have documented allegations against authorities threatening refugees with confiscating their refugee identification cards and relocation to the remote Bhasan Char island if they violate the ban on operating or attending community-led schools.
Access to education and other human rights of the Rohingya refugees are as critical as the battle is for justice and accountability for the crimes committed against the Rohingya people. It is pivotal for their right to voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return to their homes in Myanmar.
"All that the community want is the formal education that will be useful to continue studying in Myanmar," said a Rohingya youth, whose identity is being withheld for his safety.
Education is one of the most important activities that can keep the Rohingya population away from being exploited by harmful groups including child traffickers, drug smugglers, armed groups, and others who sense opportunity in people's misery.
It is pivotal to empower the Rohingya refugees to claim their rights and speak for themselves. Loss of critical academic years is not only depriving the community of their educational development but also increasing their dependency on uncertain humanitarian aid, the statement further said.
The existing learning centres authorised by the government and operated by Unicef and other humanitarian partners offer education to children from four to 14 years of age. The program leaves out the older age groups, some of whom were about to take their matriculation examination at the time of the exodus in 2017.