Bangladesh is preventing aid groups from providing any meaningful education to almost 400,000 Rohingya children in refugee camps and banning them from attending school outside the camps, according to a report released on Dec. 2.
In the report, “Are We Not Human?: Denial of Education for Rohingya Refugee Children in Bangladesh,” Human Rights Watch documents how Bangladesh prohibits aid groups in the refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar district from providing Rohingya children with accredited or formal education.
There is no secondary-level education, and groups are barred from teaching the Bengali language and using the Bangladesh curriculum, it says.
Rohingya children also cannot enroll or continue their education at private or public schools outside the camps.
“Bangladesh has made it clear that it doesn’t want the Rohingya to remain indefinitely, but depriving children of education just compounds the harm to the children and won’t resolve the refugees’ plight any faster,” said Bill Van Esveld, associate children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch.
“The government of Bangladesh saved countless lives by opening its borders and providing refuge to the Rohingya, but it needs to end its misguided policy of blocking education for Rohingya children,” he said.
Despite Bangladesh having provided refuge to generations of ethnic Rohingya who fled previous waves of persecution in Myanmar it has never allowed Rohingya children to access to formal, accredited education, the rights group said.
Attempts by aid groups to educate children from then 740,000 Rohingya who fled atrocities committed against them by Myanmar troops after Aug. 2017 have been blocked, it said.
Bangladesh has even stalled on an informal education program devised by the United Nations refugee agency, and other U.N. agencies to avoid the Bangladesh government’s ban on formal education, the report said.
It said Dhaka took a year to approve the first two “levels,” equivalent to preschool and the beginning of primary school after it was submitted in April 2018 and has still to approve the upper three levels.
Even if the government fully approves all five levels of the informal program, children will still not be able to take national examinations or continue their education through secondary school, HRW said.
The rights group called on Bangladesh to lift its ban, which it said is harmful to Bangladesh’s own interests and devastates a new generation of Rohingya children, and the future of the Rohingya minority as a whole.
It also called on Myanmar to approve and support the use of its curriculum in the camps.
Children deprived of education are at increased risk of child labor and child marriage, of being trapped in poverty, and of being unable to fully participate in their societies, said the rights group.
They are also more likely to fall under the influence of criminals or armed groups, it added.
“Rohingya refugee children have been watching their chance for an education and a better future evaporate, and two years on there is still not even a plan to enroll them in schools,” Van Esveld said.
“Depriving an entire generation of children of education is in no one’s interest, and the international community needs to act and demand that Bangladesh and Myanmar change course.”