Five years ago, Mobarak Ali, a Rohingya secondary student, fled a brutal military crackdown in Rakhine state in his home country Myanmar with thousands of others.
Ali thought the perils would not last long and he could return to his homeland and resume academic life.
He took shelter at a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh’s southern border district of Cox’s Bazar, which is now home to more than 1.2 million of the persecuted people.
Of them, more than 700,000 fled Myanmar within a couple of days following the massive attacks of the Myanmar military on Aug. 25, 2017 in the guise of anti-insurgent raids. The United Nations and human rights defenders labeled the inhuman massacres as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” while many others, including the US, have deemed it genocide.
Bangladesh is currently hosting more than 1.2 million Rohingya, most of whom fled a brutal military crackdown in their home country of Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017.
Since then, Ali, along with other Rohingya, have been living in the congested camps in Bangladesh in a subhuman environment as a stateless nation without refugee status.
Despite many attempts, Ali failed to continue his education in Bangladesh. As a stateless person, he deserves the right to receive the maximum primary level of education in Bangladesh under Myanmar's curriculum.
Bangladesh considers the Rohingya as displaced citizens of Myanmar and not refugees. So the Rohingya are allowed to educate their children only up to class five or the primary level under the Myanmar curriculum in the Rohingya camps. Learning centers for Rohingya are registered by the office of Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner.
As a result, Ali’s fundamental right to education has been hanging in the balance for five years. He should be studying at a university by now.
“It is like a death to me that despite having the mental and physical fitness and wholehearted dream, I could not continue my studies and have been leading an idle life in a sprawling camp in another country as a displaced person,” Ali told Anadolu Agency, standing in front of his tent at camp no. 5.
Ali is not alone in this ordeal. Thousands of others in the 34 Rohingya camps in Bangladesh are facing the same dilemma.
Learning English to keep dreams alive
Ali said that in the last five years, there has been no visible progress in the dignified repatriation of Rohingya to their home country of Myanmar with citizenship rights and safety.
“After long thinking, I as well as dozens of my other friends, mostly my classmates, decided that we would not lose our hope and not waste our time. We will learn English through different online platforms,” he said.
He added that earlier, most of them used their smartphones and internet data to browse social media and other entertainment content. “But now we enjoy different tutorials on learning English.”
“If we can write and speak English fluently, we can communicate with the whole world in any crucial moment and can lead our nation on the global platform in the future,” another Rohingya youth, Mohammad Ziauddin, told Anadolu Agency.
Labeling the uncertainty of sustainable repatriation and restrictions to higher education in Bangladesh’s camps as bad luck for them, Ziauddin added that in this era of information technology and globalization, they should not be frustrated and should ensure optimum use of all possible technologies to update themselves.
“The frustration that once gripped us has been removed a lot. Now we are fully focused on self-education and becoming experts in English,” he said.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Mojib Ullah, a member of the Rohingya diaspora in Australia and co-founder of the Rohingya Refugee Network (RRN), said that receiving education is the fundamental right of any human being.
“It’s very unfortunate for us that thousands of our boys and girls who studied in our home country of Myanmar have failed to continue their education in Bangladesh. We don’t know how many years we have to wait for repatriation. If it takes a decade more, should all eligible students in our community stop studying?” he questioned.
Regina de la Portilla, communications officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told Anadolu Agency that education for Rohingya can benefit both Bangladesh and Myanmar.
“If they are educated, they can serve the host country until repatriation, and they will also serve their home country after returning,” said Portilla.
She said education is a basic right for every human being across the globe. Anyone can desire to study as much as they wish.
“We, as part of the United Nations, are talking to both the Bangladesh and Myanmar governments to hold a dialogue to solve the crisis through meaningful repatriation,” Portilla added.