After gaining over eight years experience in providing education for Rohingya children in mixed-population slum areas and fully-Rohingya refugee communities, we have established 10 classrooms for a new and growing group of vulnerable Rohingya children, living in ‘enclave communities’ inland from the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.
Since the early 1990s these areas have served as a safe haven for Rohingya refugees fleeing abuse in Rakhine State, Myanmar. Falling outside of the scrutiny of the border police, refugees in these areas often live below the radar, with local landowners happily receiving the cheap labour they offer.
Over time their numbers have swelled, with many new arrivals coming in the wake of the violence of 2016 and 2017. However, being unregistered and stateless, these Rohingya enjoy none of the services available to their counterparts in the refugee camps, including education and basic healthcare. The needs of the children in these enclave communities remain some of the most acute in the region.
In late 2015, in coordination with local partners, Children on the Edge conducted baseline surveys in two such Rohingya, enclave communities about 3.5 hours north of the border. Approval was received from the local government to pilot four classrooms for Rohingya children. Over the past three years that pilot programme has grown to 10 classrooms providing education and health services to 500 children.
In all the new classrooms set up by Children on the Edge in these communities, not a single child had ever attended a formal school before. Our Asia Regional Manager, John Littleton describes how “In many ways, these are the most vulnerable children served by the programme, and Children on the Edge is the only agency working in these areas providing support”.
The schools follow the same format as those in the Cox’s Bazar communities and the Kutupalong refugee camp. Children will learn science, maths, social sciences, hygiene, and literacy, with the standard curriculum being augmented to include elements of creativity, self expression, play and child rights. They will receive a daily nutritional snack, health supplements and teachers are trained to identify basic health concerns and utilise the first aid kit in each classroom.
Children form child councils in each Centre to represent the views of their friends and shape the direction of the schools. They have the opportunity to contribute to the production of a child-led newsletter and enjoy weekly play days with their friends.