Frustration and despair are overwhelming young Rohingya refugees in southeastern Bangladesh, UNICEF said today. The UN children’s agency has issued a new report calling for urgent investment in education and skills development opportunities in and around the vast camps where most of the refugees live.
This report* marks two years since the arrival of around 745,000 Rohingya civilians fleeing extreme violence in Myanmar. It says that by June 2019, the overall education sector had provided non-formal education to 280,000 children aged 4 to 14. UNICEF and its partners have ensured access to learning for 192,000 of those children, enrolled in 2,167 learning centres.
However, this leaves over 25,000 children who are not attending any learning programmes, and an additional 640 learning centres are needed. Further, 97 per cent of children aged 15 to 18 years are not attending any type of educational facility.
“For the Rohingya children and youth now in Bangladesh, mere survival is not enough,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore. “It is absolutely critical that they are provided with the quality learning and skills development that they need to guarantee their long-term future.”
More formal teaching and learning materials are being progressively rolled out for younger refugee children studying in camp learning centres. UNICEF and other agencies are calling on the Governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to allow the use of national educational resources – for example, curricula, learning and training manuals and assessment methods – to help provide more structured learning for Rohingya children.
“Providing learning and training materials is a huge task and can only be realized with the full backing of a range of partners,” said Ms. Fore. “But the hopes of a generation of children and adolescents are at stake. We cannot afford to fail them.”
The report says that without adequate opportunities for learning, adolescents can fall prey to traffickers who offer to smuggle desperate young Rohingya out of Bangladesh, and to drug dealers who operate in the area. Women and girls face harassment and abuse especially at nighttime.
UNICEF is supporting the development of youth centres and adolescent clubs in which life skills, psychosocial support, basic literacy and numeracy and vocational skills are provided as part of a comprehensive package. Nearly 70 such facilities were operational by July 2019 but far more are needed.
“Our aim is to help equip adolescents with the skills they need to deal with many risks they encounter such as trafficking, abuse, and – in the case of girls – early marriage,” said UNICEF Bangladesh Representative, Tomoo Hozumi. “In broader terms, we are helping this generation of youth build their identity and make them part of the solution to the extremely challenging situation they find themselves in.”
UNICEF says that since 2017, under the leadership of the Government of Bangladesh, humanitarian agencies have made substantial progress in strengthening health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education, protection and other basic services. Examples include the establishment of camp health centres which offer routine medical services for pregnant women and babies around the clock, and the wider provision of chlorinated water to tap-stands through piped networks. Diarrhea and other waterborne diseases remain a threat, but rates of malnutrition among young children have fallen.