The United Nations has warned that thousands of young Rohingyas surviving in refugee camps in Bangladesh risk becoming a “lost generation”. A handful of Rohingya teachers are working to ensure this sad fate does not actually happen.
“We are trying the best way we can to make sure we give a future to our children living in dire conditions in the camps,” says teacher Khin Maung.
He is a 24-year-old Rohingya who has been living in Thayin Khali refugee camp in eastern Bangladesh for the past two years.
He fled his native Kyauk Chaung village in Arakan State, Myanmar because of persecution by the Burmese military and local officials.
There are over a million Rohingyas living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, near the border with Myanmar. They fled burning villages, mass killings and what they qualify as genocide perpetrated by the Myanmar regime.
According to the United Nations, an estimated 550,000 children under the age of 18 live in the camps, with about 300,000 of them aged between 3 and 14.
Khin Maung was working as a physics teacher in Myanmar when he had to leave his home town and seek refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.
In the refugee camps in eastern Bangladesh, Khin Maung joined the Free Rohingya Coalition. Along with 80 volunteer teachers they decided to join forces and provide some form of education to young children and teenagers.
“Education is a fundamental human right. Without it, no one could hope for a better life. Everyone needs to acquire some basic knowledge,” declares Khin Maung.
He added that there are just enough learning facilities in the camps to cater for 145,000 children leaving thousands of others stranded.
Six days a week, around one thousand children are taught the Burmese syllabus which includes English, Burmese, history, geography, mathematics and science.
“It is very important to educate our children who are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh,” says Khin Maung. “We are genocide survivors. We need to ensure that our children have a future and that they don't get trapped in criminal activities in the camps.”
Khin Maung fears that without a proper education the children might be lured into prostitution or drug trafficking.
The teachers do not enjoy great facilities to teach the children. They have only a few text books and download other educational material if possible. They use various tents across Thayin Khali and Kutupalong camps to school the children, including the ones housing mosques.
There are no tables in the tents where they teach. The children crouch or sit cross-legged on the floor. Khin Maung and his friends have no partnerships with the United Nations or local NGOs. They receive support and some funds from individuals and small NGOs.
“Today, one in every four children in the world is living in a country affected by conflict or disaster. Nearly 50 million children have been uprooted from their homes due to violence, poverty or natural disasters.” reads UNICEF's yearly review.
Two months ago, on 2 April 2019, the United Nations launched a new campaign, ACT to Protect Children Affected by Conflict. It runs until 2022 and aims to strengthen the protection of youngsters caught up in armed conflict.
Follow Khin Maung on Twitter @RoKhinMaung4
Follow Zeenat Hansrod on Twitter @zxnt