"Sunshine and rainbows" - Rohingya children tell us what it felt like to go back to school after lockdown in Bangladesh
The Rohingya refugee children we support in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh were delighted to return to school in September when our learning centres were allowed to open again after lockdown. But don’t just take our word for it, read on to hear from the students and teachers themselves.
In September, our learning centres for Rohinyga refugee children opened their doors after being forced to close for 18 months as a result of the pandemic. The children we support here have faced some of the longest school closures in the world and they were desperate to return.
We’ve just received these stories from our partners in Bangladesh, who have been chatting with the children and teachers about what it felt like to be back in the classroom again.
Yasmin Akter, a Level-1 student living in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh expressed her excitement when she was asked how she was feeling as the learning centres across Rohingya refugee camps reopened in September 2021 after a long 18 months of closure.
“I thought that our school was never going to be reopened. It was a different time when the school was closed. I used to spend most of the days helping my mother with household chores and my father with shopping at the Charmoya Bazar. I had previously learned to count and calculate from our teachers. So, I helped my father with keeping track of the expenditure while shopping.”
As we spoke to Yasmin, she paused to talk to her little brother who had been playing in a small yard right next to Mukti Cox’s Bazar’s Learning Centre-10, in the presence of Gulshan Ara, Yasmin’s mother.
Yasmin began again. “I cannot explain the joy that I felt while stepping into the classroom with my friends - Romania, Tosmin, and Roksana. The wall and ceiling were colorful. Our teachers greeted us with Tamarind candy and Project Officer Brishty Apa came to talk to us.”. Yasmin beamed with happiness while recounting the experience of her first day at school after the school closure.
She continued, “We were taught how to use the handwashing station established outside the school, how to wear our green masks tying up the ribbons, how to use the white thermal scanner, and why we need to sit in the class keeping distance from each other. Our teachers told us that we need to keep up our hygiene practices to stay safe from coronavirus.”
Monowara put on a mask and sat on a small ‘piri’ in their tiny yard to talk to us: “I am a student of the Learning Center - 65. I live with my parents and four siblings”
“When the school was closed, I spent my days helping my mother with cooking and playing with Sumaiya and Rajika. We heard many times that the school would reopen, but it turned out they were rumors.”
Monowara said that she was very happy that the learning centres were open again now and was amazed by the colourfully decorated classrooms on the first day of the learning centre reopening and that she wants to continue going to the learning centre. But she added, “I am not sure how long I can continue going to school. I have lost several of my books which our teacher gave to me. My bag is torn. But I want to keep attending classes.”
(Monowara doesn’t need to worry about her books and bag, we’ll be replacing these for her, and it certainly doesn’t mean she can’t continue to go to school!)
Monowara added that she liked cooking. Her favourite dish is chicken salon and when she grows up, she wants to be a famous cook. “I am not that good at cooking but I am learning from my mother.”, she added with a smile. Monowara wears a mask when she goes to school or to market and that she washes her hands, as her teachers taught them at school, to protect them from the virus.
Since 2010 we have been working to provide education and support to Rohingya refugee and slum dwelling children in Bangladesh. Working with our partner organisation, Mukti Cox’s Bazar, we now support 150 classrooms in the Kutupalong camp providing education for 7,500 children.
75 colourful learning centres encourage creativity and self expression with digital lessons, plenty of play and basic health support in safe spaces with trusted adults.
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