More than 145,000 Rohingya children living in Bangladesh camps were now attending the UNICEFsupported learning centres as a new school year began.
Currently, 97 per cent of adolescents and youngsters aged between 15 and 24 years did not receive any kind of education in the camps, said UNICEF on Wednesday.
This group was extremely vulnerable to child marriage, child labour, human trafficking, abuse and exploitation, it said.
Following a ‘huge effort’ from the humanitarian community to construct a network of around 1,600 learning centres throughout the camps — providing vital access to education for children who fled violence in Myanmar — attention was now turning to provide education for thousands of other children who still lacked access.
The aim was to eventually reach 260,000 children with education this year through an extended network of 2,500 learning centres run by 5,000
teachers and Rohingya volunteers.
‘The scale of the Rohingya refugee crisis demanded a rapid response,’ said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF representative to Bangladesh.
‘We were only able to respond to immediate needs and could not reach every child. This year we are scaling up services to reach more children than ever before, while focusing on improving the quality of education each child receives,’ he said.
The drive to construct more learning centres was part of a far-reaching and comprehensive set of initiatives announced by UNICEF to increase access to quality education for children living in the camps.
‘I’ve been coming to class for almost a month now,’ said Minara, 11, who studied until Class IV in Myanmar, but dropped out after arriving in Bangladesh because the learning centres she attended were muddy and too hot.
‘It’s nice here,’ she said as she surveyed the new classroom in Kutupalong camp run by UNICEF partner CODEC.
‘It doesn’t have a muddy floor,’ she said.
Motalab, 12, who was blind, was one of about 600 children with disabilities who had been identified to attend school.
Last year, his teacher convinced his mother to allow him to attend class. Since returning to class his mood had visibly brightened, he was more outgoing and said he enjoyed poetry.
The quality of education in the camps was also being improved through expanded learning modules and lesson plans. New and existing teachers were participating in development training programmes.
‘Many children have suffered trauma injuries from gunshot wounds and extreme violence, restricting their mobility and access to services,’ said Iffat Farhana, education officer of UNICEF Cox’s Bazar.
‘We see many children with mixed learning abilities, physical disabilities, visual impairment and speech difficulties,’ she said.
‘Each of these children has a right to education. With more learning centres and more teachers, UNICEF hopes to reach every child to help them learn, grow and realize their potential,’ she said.
UNICEF was also targeting adolescents with educational training to develop their knowledge and vocational skills.
A UNICEF report last year warned that without urgent action, these teenagers were at risk of becoming a lost generation.
‘It is through these targeted interventions that UNICEF is striving to provide education for the hardestto-reach children, many of whom have severe vulnerabilities,’ Beigbeder said.
‘Our aim is to ensure they can be equipped with the knowledge and skills they require to navigate their future,’ he added.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Foreign affairs