Bangladesh is blocking aid groups from providing education to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children in refugee camps, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.
In a report titled, Are we not human?: Denial of Education for Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh, the New York-based rights body urged authorities to urgently lift restrictions that deprive Rohingya refugee children of their right to education under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
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According to HRW, about 400,000 school-age children living in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps are affected by the fact that the Bangladeshi government does not provide formal, accredited education in the camps and bars UN agencies and NGOs from doing so.
The report further states that Rohingya children are banned from attending schools outside the sprawling refugee camps.
“We need education because education can change your life,” Mohamed Sufire, a 14-year-old Rohingya refugee told HRW, which interviewed 163 Rohingya children, teachers as well as government officials and staff from humanitarian agencies.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have taken shelter in refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district after Myanmar’s military launched a brutal offensive against what it called Muslim armed rebels in August 2017.
But rights activists say the Myanmar military used an armed attack on a military outpost in Rakhine state as a pretext to launch a campaign against one of the most persecuted communities in the world.
Myanmar has stripped the Rohingya of their citizenship and has put heavy restrictions on their movement. Access to schooling has also been heavily curbed since ethnic violence in 2012.
Organisations such as UNICEF have stepped in to assist in providing education to refugee children.
The UN agency runs “learning centres” as part of its “informal education programme”, as Bangladesh has banned any formalised learning.
“An entire generation of children is being deprived of education,” said Bill van Esveld, associate director of children’s rights at HRW.
“The children escaped brutal attacks to a life in refugee camps. The routine of going to school and learning can give children a sense of security. Denying them that slight respite is unconscionable.”
Myanmar and Bangladesh have refused to recognise the use of their curriculum for refugee children.
A high school started by a Rohingya refugee in Cox’s Bazar had to close down because of the restrictions.
“The children are very unhappy,” said Salauddin Pioneer, who was formerly a head teacher of a high school in Myanmar.
“They are trying to do their reading at home and are waiting for the school to reopen,” said Pioneer who hopes to reopen the school despite facing financial obstacles.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at HRW, said Rohingya children are falling between the cracks since they are being denied formal schooling by both Myanmar and Bangladesh.