Rohingya children living in the refugee camps in Bangladesh will be allowed to receive a formal education after a change of heart by Dhaka in a move welcomed by right activists.
Nearly one million Rohingyas, including more than half a million children, live in the squalid and crowded camps in Cox’s Bazar, near the southeastern border with Myanmar, where many had fled from in 2017 after a brutal military crackdown.
The children were previously barred from studying the curriculums used in Bangladesh and Myanmar, and instead received primary education in temporary learning centres set up by the UN children’s agency Unicef.
“We don’t want a lost generation of Rohingyas. We want them to have education. They will follow Myanmar curricula,” Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told AFP on Tuesday.
The decision came after a meeting of a national taskforce set up by the government.
Local media reported that a pilot program involving more than 10,000 students would be launched soon, with Unicef and Dhaka jointly designing the curriculum.
The refugee children will be schooled in Myanmar history and culture up to age 14, and will also receive skills training so they can take up jobs back in Myanmar when they return home, the Foreign Ministry said.
“”I can’t express my joy with words. Generations of Rohingyas hardly had any education in their homeland in Myanmar as they were discriminated there and were robbed of their citizenship,” Rohingya youth leader and human rights activist Rafique bin Habib said.
“The decision will minimize the chances for a Rohingya kid to get radicalized [in the camps],” he added.
UN representative in Bangladesh Mia Seppo told AFP the move would “make it easier for them to go back home to Myanmar when the time is right for returns.”
Some Rohingya children have used fake Bangladeshi identity cards and hidden their ethnic identities to enrol in local schools.
Authorities last year expelled scores of them from schools in a drive condemned by rights groups.
Tens of thousands of other Rohingya children were also educated in madrasas set up by Islamic groups in the camps.
The government’s decision came almost a week after the UN’s highest court ordered Myanmar to do everything in its power to prevent the genocide of Rohingyas.
“This is an important and very positive commitment by the Bangladeshi government, allowing children to access schooling and chase their dreams for the future. They have lost two academic years already and cannot afford to lose any more time outside a classroom,” said Saad Hammadi, South Asia campaigner at Amnesty International, in a statement.
He added: “It is important that access to appropriate, accredited and quality education be extended to all children in the Cox’s Bazar area, including Rohingya refugees and the host community.
“The international community has a key role to play here in ensuring the Bangladesh government has the resources it needs to realize this goal.”