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Rohingya children learning Bangla in secret

  • Published at 01:42 am August 30th, 2018
According to Unicef, since August 2017, providing pre-primary and primary education to the children of the Rohingya refugees has been their main focus
File photo: Rohingya children in refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh going to school Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Officially, they are only allowed to have either a Burmese general education or the Ebtadayee madrasa education

Despite the law barring Rohingya refugees from learning Bangla, some Rohingya children have been learning the language secretly in their refugee camps in the Cox's Bazar peninsula.

The Rohingya parents are worried about the future of their children, as the repatriation process has progressed slowly. As a result, they are letting their children learn Bangla, alongside their approved English, Mathematics, and Burmese curriculum, in the camps.

An 11-year-old Rohingya boy in Moynarghona camp, whose name has been withheld, said he was inspired to learn Bangla by those who had come to Bangladesh from Myanmar before him.

"They already know Bangla," he said. "I was inspired by them, and now I learn Bangla alongside other subjects."

However, when asked to show his Bangla alphabet book, the boy declined, saying his parents would not allow him. The boy said one of his elder brothers had given the book to him.

Now he is learning Bangla privately through a house tutor who had come as a refugee to the Rohingya camps about a decade ago. 

The Rohingya pupils are officially only allowed to have either a Burmese general education or the Ebtadayee madrasa education. Aid agencies such as Unicef and Brac have already established more than a thousand education centres at the camps in Cox's Bazar.

According to Unicef, since August 2017, providing pre-primary and primary education to the Rohingya children has been their main focus.

Until August 13, 2018, a total of 139,444 children have been included in the education system. 

Currently, there are a total of 1,401 registered learning centres, that have 3,147 facilitators trained in fundamental teaching, says Unicef. The schools are operated through 465 learning centre management committees. Learning materials have been distributed to 141,388 students. 

The facilitators have been trained to teach students English, Mathematics, and the Burmese language. However, the madrasa education is controlled by Rohingya refugees. 

The pre-primary education system contains the Burmese language, while the primary education contains the subjects English, Mathematics and Burmese. Most of the pre-primary and primary education centres are operated by Unicef and Brac.

Harunur Rashid, who teaches at a Unicef school inside the Moynarghona camp told this correspondent: "We have heard of some private tutors who are teaching the kids Bangla secretly at their shelters."

When asked for details, Harunur said: "A teacher earns around Tk1,000 from each student to teach Bangla per month."

He said even though complaints reached the ears of the authorities, they were unable to identify anyone as influential Rohingya community leaders and volunteers are involved in the matter.  

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