Rohingya ‘lost generation’ struggle to study in Bangladesh camps

The government has also forbidden education centers in the camps from teaching the Bangladesh curriculum, according to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF. (Reuters)
Updated 18 March 2019
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Rohingya ‘lost generation’ struggle to study in Bangladesh camps

  • For years, Bangladeshi schools have quietly admitted some of the Rohingya who live as refugees in sprawling camps on the country’s southern coast
  • Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, has said the country cannot afford to integrate them

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Sixteen-year-old Kefayat Ullah walked to his school in southern Bangladesh in late January, as he had done most days for the previous six years, to find that — despite being one of the top students in his class — he had been expelled.
A government investigation had outed him, along with dozens of his classmates, as a Rohingya refugee, a member of the mostly stateless Muslim minority from neighboring Myanmar.
“Our headmaster called us into his office and told us that there’s an order that Rohingya students have no rights to study here anymore,” said the teenager, a small boy with cropped hair and a faint moustache. “We went back home crying.”
For years, Bangladeshi schools have quietly admitted some of the Rohingya who live as refugees in sprawling camps on the country’s southern coast, and whose numbers have swelled to more than 1 million since violence across the border in 2017. But the new influx has tested the hospitality of the Bangladeshi government, leading them to apply tighter controls on the population.
The recent expulsions highlight the struggle of hundreds of thousands of children desperate to study in the world’s largest refugee settlement, but at risk of missing out on crucial years of education and the chance to obtain formal qualifications.
More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar after a military campaign in late 2017 that the United Nations has said was executed with “genocidal intent.” Thousands more, like Kefayat, were born in Bangladesh after their parents fled earlier waves of violence.
Though Myanmar says it is ready to welcome back the refugees, northern Rakhine state, from where they fled, is still riven by ethnic tensions and violence, and the UN has said conditions are not right for them to return.
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, meanwhile, has said the country cannot afford to integrate them.
In some countries, governments allow refugees to study in local schools, allowing them to gain recognized qualifications, or permit institutions in the camps to teach the national curriculum. But Bangladesh has not recognized the vast majority of the Rohingya as refugees and does not issue birth certificates for those born in the camps, making their legal status unclear.
The government has also forbidden centers in the camps from teaching the Bangladesh curriculum, according to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF.
“Many students are depressed and frustrated,” said a 21-year-old who asked not to be named because he was continuing to pass as Bangladeshi so he could go to university.
“Yes, we are somehow pretending to be Bangladeshi students. Yes, we have got some education. But now, where will we go? The world should think about this: if we can’t study, our future will be damaged. We are hungry for education.”
In the headmaster’s office at Leda High School, piles of textbooks inscribed with the names of some of the 64 expelled students lay stacked in a corner.
“We are very sorry and disappointed about the decision,” said the principal, Jamal Uddin. “The government is providing everything for the Rohingya – why not education?”
But others were relieved. Eighteen months on from the start of the crisis, and with no resolution in sight, some local people are losing patience.
In the grassy playground of the school, its founder, 48-year-old Kamal Uddin Ahmed, said the arrival of the Rohingya had been a massive upheaval for the local area.
“How do you think I feel?” he said. “We don’t mind the Rohingya, but we mind our lives.”
Intelligence officials who visited said it was “not safe for the country, not safe for our people” to have Rohingya in schools, he said.
Rohingya have been accused by some of bringing drugs and crime to Bangladesh.
In a letter to local headmasters dated January, Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission Chief Abul Kalam said that an intelligence report on the situation had been filed with the prime minister’s office in November.
“It has been seen the trend of Rohingya children’s participation in getting education has been increasing,” Kalam said in the letter, seen by Reuters, adding that some Rohingya had obtained fake Bangladeshi identity documents through “dishonest public representatives.” “It is advised to monitor strictly so that no Rohingya children can take education outside the camps or elsewhere in Bangladesh,” he said.
Asked about his order to expel Rohingya children from local schools, Kalam said they were getting an education from learning centers in the camps.
“They are not allowed to enroll in Bangladeshi schools as they are not Bangladeshi citizens,” he said.


India holds ‘Super Tuesday’ vote

Indian National Congress party president Rahul Gandhi (C) gestures after laying a wreath to pay tribute on the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre at the Jallianwala Bagh martyrs memorial in Amritsar on April 13, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 51 min 55 sec ago
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India holds ‘Super Tuesday’ vote

  • Rahul Gandhi is standing in Wayanad in Kerala state, taking a risk as south India is considered a stronghold of regional parties
  • This election is seen as a referendum on his five-year rule — which has seen impressive economic growth but not the jobs that the BJP promised

NEW DELHI: Indians are voting Tuesday in the third phase of the general elections with campaigning by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party and the opposition marred by bitter accusations and acrimony.
People lined up outside voting station at several places even before the polling started at 7 a.m.
The voting for 117 parliamentary seats in 13 states and two Union Territories on Tuesday means polls are half done for 543 seats in the lower house of Parliament. The voting over seven phases ends May 19, with counting scheduled for May 23.
The election is seen as a referendum on Modi’s five-year rule. He has adopted a nationalist pitch trying to win the majority Hindu votes by projecting a tough stance against Islamic neighbor Pakistan.
The opposition is challenging him for a high unemployment rate of 6.1% and farmers’ distress aggravated by low crop prices.
Modi is scheduled to vote on Tuesday in his western home state of Gujarat, though he is contesting for a parliamentary seat from Varanasi, a city in northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
The voting also is taking place in Wayanad constituency in southern Kerala state, one of the two seats from where opposition Congress party president, Rahul Gandhi, is contesting. His home bastion, Amethi, in Uttar Pradesh state will have polling on May 6. He will give up one seat if he wins from both places.
The voting is staggered to facilitate movement of security forces to oversee an orderly election and avoid vote fraud.
India’s autonomous Election Commission intervened last week to block hate speeches by imposing a temporary ban on campaigning by some top politicians across political parties.
Uttar Pradesh state chief minister Yogi Adityanath of Modi’s BJP was barred from campaigning, in the form of public meetings, road shows or media interviews, for three days for making anti-Muslim speeches. He said a Hindu god will ensure the BJP victory in elections, while the opposition was betting on Muslim votes.
Mayawati, a leader of Bahujan Samaj Party, was punished for 48 hours for appealing to Muslims to vote only for her party. India’s top court ordered strict action against politicians for religion and caste-based remarks.
Hindus comprise 80% and Muslims 16% of India’s 1.3 billion people. The opposition accuses the BJP of trying to polarize the Hindu votes in its favor.
Meenakshi Lekhi, a BJP leader, filed a contempt of court petition against Rahul Gandhi in the Supreme Court for misrepresenting a court order while accusing Modi of corruption in a deal to buy 36 French Rafale fighter aircraft. Modi denies the charge.
Modi has used Kashmir to pivot away from his economic record, playing up the threat of rival Pakistan, especially after the suicide bombing of a paramilitary convoy on Feb. 14 that killed 40 soldiers, in a bid to appear a strong, uncompromising leader on national security. The bombing brought nuclear rivals India and Pakistan close to the brink of war.
Opposition parties have consistently said that Modi and his party leaders are digressing from the main issues such as youth employment and farmers’ suicides.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. Most Kashmiris support the rebels’ demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.