Malaysia: Apartment Schools for Migrant Children
No access to education for Migrant Children
Since democratic rule ended in Burma in 1962 the military regime has waged a violent war on over 100 ethnic groups within Burma. Burmese refugees, many fleeing to Malaysia, tell of forced labour, rape, mutilation, execution and arbitrary detainment at the hands of the Army.
According to UNHCR Malaysia, in October 2009 about 67,800 refugees and asylum-seekers were registered with the Refugee Agency. An estimated further 30,000 refugees were thought not to be registered.
These refugees subsist in often-appalling conditions, recognised by neither the regime "back home" nor the Malaysian authorities. Many work illegally, often in slave labour conditions. They are regularly subject to verbal, physical and sexual harassment in addition to police abuse.
The categories of children permitted to attend government schools under the Malaysian Education Act (1966) effectively preclude the majority of refugee children.
Consequently some children end up working in odd jobs on construction sites, working as garbage collectors or take to the streets as beggars.
What we did to help:
Children on the Edge worked with over 440 children from these Chin families, supporting them to gain an informal education in community apartments which have been transformed into classrooms.
The children learn Maths, English and Science alongside Chin culture and literature. They also enjoy sports days and days out.
There are no uniforms and at the start there were no desks and no chairs, but gradually facilities have improved and students are happy to be learning. These apartment schools are run independently now by CSO and mainly supported by local funding. They are a crucial means of providing an education in a desperate situation and the teachers do extraordinary work.