Monday, 25 May 2020

By Tin Soe

Kutupalong, Bangladesh: Some refugees from the Kutupalong makeshift camp are preparing to teach basic education to youth as private tutoring in huts made from branches and tattered black plastic sheeting, according to a refugee leader from the unregistered refugee camp.

“We are planning to set up more than 50 huts as private coaching centers as there are more than 10,000 youngsters without schooling in the camp,” said Ahmed, a young refugee teacher.

“Our huts are very small and the height is very low with plastic and bushes, so we will only teach thirty youngsters in a center at a time,” Ahmed said. “We have just organized some refugees who have completed classes seven and up in Burma and Bangladesh to be teachers.”

“The centers are not much like classrooms. The children sitting on the floor don't have books or a blackboard for their teacher to write on,” Ahmed added.

“We hope we will be able to manage the books for students and blackboards for the teaching huts with donations from our refugee community and other well-wishers,” said Syed Hussain, a 55-year-old community leader from Kutupalong camp.

"I like studying English, Bengali, and Math," said eight-year-old Formina. "When I am not at school I help my mother."

“I like studying English, Bengali, math, and Burmese,” said Rosina, a ten-year-old youngster from the camp, “but we need more books and pens for our studying.”

"We need textbooks and we need equipment," said Amina, one of the senior members of staff responsible for helping to train others to become teachers. "The lessons are for children aged 5–10. After that we can’t offer anything."

And yet the community struggles on, determined that its children receive some education, however basic. Within this huge unofficial camp, there are 30 classroom huts now. During the summer when the temperatures soar, the lessons will be held in the relative cool of the very early morning, according to Amina.

“We are very happy to be able to help our children with education from our own young refugee teachers, and pray for them to have success with their goals,” said Syed, an older refugee who has four children in the camp.

28,000 refugees are registered with the government under UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency. At least 200,000 more refugees – some claim the figure is as high as 500,000 – are unofficial. While the official refugees live in shelters, receive food, medical care, and educational support, the unregistered refugees are forced to fend for themselves.

The disparity between the official refugees and the hundreds of thousands of unregistered Rohingyas is no more starkly revealed than here at Kutupalong, south of Cox's Bazaar, where the official refugees live in permanent huts and the unofficial refugees in flimsy shacks. Such is its temporary nature that everyone refers to it as Kutupalong Makeshift Camp. And that is the way the officials see it; when residents tried to build a permanent school, the authorities tore it down.

On other hand, Children on the Edge, a British-based basic education program, is hoping to establish a nutrition and education program for these youngsters who have so little. "Their future at the moment is very bleak – they are struggling to get enough food to survive," said the charity's director, Rachel Bentley. "Healthcare and sanitation is very poor. Those that go out from the camp to earn money are in danger of being rounded up and sent back to Burma."