Dhaka, Dec 18 (EFE).- Some 30,000 Rohingya children could lose their access to education in Bangladesh following a government decision to close home-based and community-led schools for the persecuted mainly-Muslim minority from Myanmar, Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned Saturday.
At least four Rohingya teachers and two community leaders have confirmed the closure of schools.
According to the rights watchdog, humanitarian workers have said they had no prior warning about the controversial decision.
The Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner approved the decision on Dec.13.
The commissioner is a Bangladesh government official responsible for education policy in the refugee camps, where some 400,000 school-age children live.
“Bangladesh’s decision to close schools for Rohingya refugee children violates the right to education on a massive scale,” said Bill Van Esveld, associate children’s rights director at Human Rights Watch.
The activist urged that the “cruel decision” be reversed “immediately” so that the children belonging to this persecuted minority could receive an education which, he said, “will be especially critical for their return to Myanmar when it is safe to do so.”
The decision not only closes home-based schools but also shuts down all private learning centers run by Rohingya refugee volunteer teachers.
About 10,000 children learn at such centers.
Some 22,000 Rohingya children receive education in home-based centers.
Around 92,000 students attend approved non-formal lessons in small learning classrooms outside homes, according to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.
Humanitarian workers called home-based schools “essential” to access learning and psychosocial support and said that approximately 84 percent of the students are girls.
They described the community-led schools as “especially crucial for adolescents, who are too old to attend the officially approved lessons at the learning centers and have few other education options,” according to HRW.
“Together, these schools had provided the only education accessible to Rohingya children during the 18 months when the authorities had closed learning centers as part of restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the organization said.
While the Bangladeshi government “saved countless lives when it opened its borders to ethnic Rohingya fleeing atrocity crimes by Myanmar’s military in August 2017,” it also barred Rohingya children’s “access to public and private schools.”
It also restricted education programs inside the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, where most of the refugees live, according to HRW.
The decision to close the home-based centers “might not leave any way for these students to integrate into Myanmar society if they are able to return” in the future, a humanitarian worker said.
“Foreign donors and the United Nations have for more than four years quietly tried to persuade the Bangladesh government to stop blocking Rohingya children’s education,” Van Esveld said.
“A stronger, more coordinated effort is needed so that Bangladesh reverses its outright harmful policy to deny education to a generation of children who have no more time to lose.” EFE