ASIA/BANGLADESH - A school for Rohingya refugee children

Monday, 29 January 2018


Dhaka (Agenzia Fides) - "The Rohingya live in small shelters in refugee camps made of bamboo canes and pieces of plastic; drinking water and food are still scarce. There are more than 500,000 children, who yearn for a future that does not exist. I have just visited the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh: almost one million people have fled Myanmar to save their lives. In order to respond to the great need of children, who are more than the half of Rohingya population in the camps, Sant'Egidio Community opened a school for 300 children in the refugee camp of Jamtholi": says Alberto Quattrucci, an envoy of Sant'Egidio community in Bangladesh, to Agenzia Fides, where he visited the refugee camps that welcome the Rohingya who fled from Myanmar.
Quattrucci says: "The men of the Burmese army have destroyed the Rohingya villages, burned their homes, tortured men and raped women, killed more than 7000 people in the last year alone. Thus, those who managed, escaped by taking their family or what was left with them. These are people without citizenship, the most numerous stateless persons in the world. A people that does not exist and therefore without any rights. We are talking about the ethnic cleansing of our century".
A small seed of hope, in this dramatic situation, is the new school launched in Jamtholi refugee camp: open six days a week, from Saturday to Thursday, from 9.00 to 3 pm, in three turns of 100 children. The teachers - explains Quattrucci - are four Rohingya refugees, who were teachers in the Burmese Rakhine state before fleeing to Bangladesh. The lessons are being held in a temporary hut, waiting to start a more extensive and stable construction on an identified land which has already been authorized. It is realized in partnership with the volunteers of the Dreamers and of the Muhammadiyah, the Indonesian Islamic organization that also manages a small nutritional center.
"Schooling is a gesture of hope for the future of the Rohingya, at a time when the situation is still blocked: in fact the prospect of a possible repatriation announced by the government of Bangladesh after the meeting with the government of Myanmar in Naypyidaw, last January 16, clashes with considerable difficulties", notes the delegate of Sant'Egidio Community.
The eventual repatriation, in fact, is subordinated to the Rohingya grant of the citizenship of Myanmar, and will be granted (according to the agreements signed) to no more than 300 people a day. "This means that the refugee camps will be dismantled over a period of ten years", he notes.
The school, he explains, represents "the first step to try to transform this long emergency phase into a useful time, which prepares the new generations for a future that we hope will see a process of integration in a multi-ethnic society that protects coexistence and pluralism". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 29/1/2018)