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Tens of Thousands of Students Will Lose Access to Education – New Policies Are Cruel and a Terrible Mistake

Her Excellency Shaykh Hasina Wajid

Prime Minister’s Office

CC H. E. Foreign Minister Md. Shahriar Alam

We the undersigned organizations and community leaders have learned that the Bangladesh Government has decided to close thousands of schools for Rohingya refugee students, affecting tens of thousands of Rohingya children. This cruel and unnecessary action is a terrible mistake, and a violation of the right to education. Bangladesh is a signatory to the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

The 19-point decision, effective immediately, states that “home-based learning centers will be closed”. At these centers, set up in people’s shelters, humanitarian groups supported by international donor funding provide non-formal lessons that have been approved by the Bangladesh government.

The Bangladesh government opened its borders to Rohingya genocide survivors fleeing the Myanmar military in August 2017, but since then the authorities have severely restricted education that humanitarian groups could provide to the approximately half a million children and young people in the camps. W
ith insufficient education allowed by the authorities, home-based schools have proved necessary for children to access learning and emotional support.

Rohingya girls represent approximately 84 percent of students of home based schools, and volunteer-led community-based schools are especially needed for adolescents, who are not permitted to join officially-approved lessons. These two types of schools had provided the only education accessible to Rohingya children during the 18 months when the authorities had closed learning centers as part of pandemic restrictions, and even prevented access to online learning. These schools and centers deserve greater support, not closure.

Already, on October 14, 2021 Bangladesh camp authorities closed a community-based school with more than 400 students, and confiscated all education materials. Bangladesh authorities also closed at least two community-based Rohingya schools with hundreds of students on December 13. In one camp, the assistant camp-in-charge – a Bangladesh official – and police officers arrived and closed a school with 800 students and seized all the furniture and education materials. Rohingya school teachers and community leaders have confirmed other school closures and threats as well.

In Bangladesh camps, Rohingya refugee children already are taught the Burmese curriculum, not the Bangladesh curriculum, since all Rohingya refugees hope to return to their homeland in Rakhine State when their safety is guaranteed and rights are restored. They do not seek economic opportunities in Bangladesh. It is not the Rohingya’s fault they had to flee annihilation in Burma. The Rohingya fled war crimes and atrocities carried out by the same brutal military that now has overthrown the democratically elected government of Burma. Why are the Rohingya being punished?

The decision to destroy Rohingya children’s future coincided with Victory Day (December 16th) that commemorates Bangladesh independence. It is deeply disappointing that a people who survived genocide would treat another group of genocide survivors in this cold and cruel way, targeting children.

We ask that Bangladesh halt this counter-productive policy, as its negative impacts have not been considered in proper detail. We ask the international community, and especially international donors, to make clear that this abrupt closure of volunteer run learning centers is unacceptable.

Sincerely

Justice For All
Burma Task Force
US Campaign for Burma
Global Movement For Myanmar Democracy
ALTSEAN Burma
Burma Campaign UK
Canadian Rohingya Development Initiative
Justice for All Canada
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
Arakan Institute for Peace & Human Rights
Count Crane Center for Mass Atrocity Prevention
Rohingya Refugee Network” (RRN)
International Coalition for the Rohingya
Karen Organization of America
Justice for Rohingya UK
International Karen Organisation
Women Peace Network
Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition
Progressive Voice
World Rohingya Organization (WRO)
South Asian Fund for Education, Scholarship and Training (SAFEST)
Initiatives for International Dialogue
Burma Action Ireland
European Rohingya Council

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