Described by the United Nations as “one of the world’s most persecuted minorities”, the Rohingya people have faced generations of persecution and neglect. Not recognised as full citizens by the Burmese government, they are unable to move freely, marry or even vote in elections.
Faced with continued persecution within their own country, an estimated 500,000 Rohingya have uprooted their lives in search of recognition of their basic human rights. While some of these people are desperate enough to attempt the dangerous journey to Southeast Asia by boat, most seek refuge and a new life in Bangladesh.
Approximately 95,000 of them are living in refugee camps here, but the Rohingya have been rejected by the national government, so the UN was forced to stop registering official refugees in 2005. This led to the creation of sprawling unofficial camps along the border region without adequate access to food rations, health care or education. They suffer sanctioned harassment and periodic mass expulsions by authorities.
Faced with continual persecution, lack of resources, and the threat of deportation, many Rohingya have moved away from the heavily-monitored border area to enclave communities further inland. While the communities do not receive any formal recognition or support from the government, they are usually allowed to exist relatively undisturbed by the local communities who enjoy the benefits of the cheap labour they offer.
Rohiakar, a Rohingya mother we spoke to last week said “We were living in a border town in Rakhine State in Burma. The military took our house as a station so that they could watch who was coming in and out of the border, they would just sit there and drink. We left our home and crossed to Bangladesh and went to our cousins, but then the government destroyed the village. We tried other places but the Bangladesh people hated us and made our lives miserable, so we ended up at the enclave. There is no hate for us there so we can make a bit of a life”:
In coordination with local partners, Children on the Edge have conducted baseline surveys in two such Rohingya enclave communities and received approval from the local government to establish four classrooms for refugee children.
Each classroom can accommodate 60 students per day. Priority is being given to children from single-income homes, those with disabilities, and those from the most resource-poor households. The schools will be starting this week.
The vast majority of the 240 children enrolled have never received any type of prior education. The schools provide children with instruction in science, maths, hygiene, and reading/writing in Bangla and English.
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