Reading Time: 3 minutes
This #WorldRefugeeDay, our hope is to see every child being able to build their future in a classroom, no matter how far away they are from their homes.
For most of us, our childhood revolved around a classroom.
For over 10 years, we woke up, excited (or forced) to get out of bed, put on uniforms, ate breakfast and headed to school. We looked forward to lessons with our favourite teachers, and dreaded classes with the stricter ones. We looked forward to lunch breaks with friends, many of whom have remained our friends for years to come.
A classroom was the last thing on 10-year-old Showkat’s mind when she entered Bangladesh in August 2017. She was in an unknown land, had nothing with her from her home and had trekked through a jungle and crossed a sea, hungry and exhausted, with only her aunt for support.
Just two weeks before, she had been waking up every morning, packing her bag and going to school to see her friends. She loved coming back home from school and telling her mother and father what she was learning, and then rushing out to the big green field nearby to play. She was a fast runner, and she often outran her friends in games.
Like half a million Rohingya children, one sunny afternoon, Showkat’s childhood was suddenly taken away from her.
“When I first heard the yelling, I thought it was my friends chasing after me.”
The screams pierced across the green field, coming from behind the trees where her house was.
“I saw a group of men surrounding my house. They set it on fire. My parents were locked inside. They kept screaming and screaming for help.”
This would be the last time Showkat heard her parents’ voices.
Terrified, Showkat ran to her aunt’s house. She ran faster than she ever had.
She lost her classroom, her friends, her parents and her home that afternoon.
Now in a completely new land, living under tarpaulin roofs on bare brown hills, half a million Rohingya children like Showkat are far from their classrooms and at risk of becoming a lost generation – without formal education, at risk of exploitation, with uncertain futures.
Children who are refugees are five times more likely to be out of school. 50% of primary aged children who are refugees did not have access to primary education, and 3 out of 4 had no access to secondary education.
Education often accounts for less than 2% of humanitarian aid.
A classroom is a sacred space where children learn to socialise, receive emotional and social validation and support, and build their hopes for the future.
Children who are out of school are more likely to fall victim to child labour, violence, exploitation and extremism.
In Bangladesh, BRAC has supported the Government of Bangladesh as the biggest provider of education in the camps since the influx began.
“Our philosophy is that all children deserve a childhood – and a future. Classrooms are where children have a place to build those futures” shares Nazrul Islam, a programme head of BRAC’s education programme.
“Our teams are constantly working to improve the quality of the learning opportunities we are providing. No matter of how long the children will stay here, they will be learning”.
The government of Bangladesh has responded to the crisis by providing over 6,000 acres of land to host Rohingyas. Massive efforts have ensured that the displaced community has access to healthcare, safe water and sanitation, shelter and protection. The sound of hopes and dreams resounds throughout the camps, sung by thousands of children in little colourful classrooms. Still, an enormously pressing need remains.
More than half of the population living in the camps are children.
Many more children need classrooms.
More than 65,000 Rohingya children aged 3-14 still do not have access to a classroom. (ISCG Education Report, June 2019)
This #WorldRefugeeDay, our hope is to see every child able to build their future in a classroom, no matter how far away they are from their homes.
Zaian F Chowdhury is the communications portfolio lead for learning and innovation of BRAC Communications.