Half a million Rohingya children are stateless refugees, anxious about their future, and vulnerable to frustration and despair, in Cox’s Bazar,.
The Bangladesh government’s massive humanitarian effort with international support has saved the lives of countless children. But as there is yet no progress on their repatriation, the young Rohingyas, living in the world’s largest refugee settlement, are not having births registered, in addition to lacking legal identity and refugee status.
This excludes these children from a formal education curriculum, and they are desperately in need of marketable skills. UNICEF Bangladesh is appealing for $152 million in 2019 to provide 685,000 Rohingya refugees and host community residents with critical support. After a two-day visit to Cox’s Bazar, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, with the United Nations secretary general’s humanitarian envoy, Ahmed Al Meraikhi, came up with the statement in the city’s Intercontinental Dhaka on Wednesday.
Henrietta Fore said “The obligation we have as a global society is immense: to give children and young people the world has defined as ‘stateless’, the education and skills they need to build decent lives for themselves.”
The results of a survey completed in December 2018 of 180,000 Rohingya children aged 4-14 now enrolled in “Learning Centers” across the Cox’s Bazar area, show the extent of the need for education. More than 90 per cent were shown to have learning competencies at the pre-primary to grades 1-2 level. Just 4 per cent were at grade levels 3-5, and 3 percent at grades 6-8. By the end of 2018, just 3 percent of Rohingyas between 15 and 24 years old were getting any education or vocational skills.
Al Meraikhi said “Today, without a legal identity, they are at the mercy of traffickers and drug dealers.”
“We must agree now, and collectively, to invest in this generation of Rohingya children, so that they can better navigate their lives today, and be a constructive part of rebuilding Myanmar’s social fabric when they are able to return,” he added.
UNICEF is now reaching 155,000 children of ages 4-14 with a learning programme that is progressively including higher quality and more structured learning and skills. The priority for 2019 is to reach older adolescents with foundational skills in literacy and numeracy, and relevant vocational skills. There will also be a much stronger focus on support for the local host community in Cox’s Bazar, one of the poorest districts in Bangladesh.
“This is crucial work, but a drop in the bucket of need. This is an untenable situation,” Fore said.
“A generation of Rohingya children and young people cannot be left without the education and skills to build a life for themselves. If they become self-sustaining, their communities will also become self-sustaining, and flourish. With the right investment, the Rohingyas can be an asset to their community and to the world,” she added.