Rohingya crisis: Need of education becomes most imperative
Despite growing international concern and expression of sympathy, the Rohingyas are fleeing to Bangladesh to escape military crackdown in Myanmar. Their number has already swelled to more than 500,000 in less than two months, and is rising by leaps and bounds everyday as the Myanmar army continues the 'ethnic cleansing' drive to push all the Rohingya Muslims from their country.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh suffers the brunt of the military's brutality in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar as the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has provided shelter for the refugees and piling up food and medical support for them with supplies coming from international aid agencies and various governments.
They began sending relief materials at the call of Sheikh Hasina who assured and declared that no Rohingya refugee will die of hunger and starvation. But, on top of everything, the main concern of Bangladesh and the world community remains the early, peaceful repatriation and proper settlement of the Rohingyas in Myanmar, where, unfortunately, they are deprived of citizenship and other rights, despite having lived in Myanmar's western Rakhine state for two-three generations.
So far, under Myanmar's Buddhist military junta and later a democratic government founded by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the status of Rohingyas remained pitiable, though they expected their fate will change for the better with Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) having seized power in the country's first general election in 2015.
The Rohingyas have crossed the border into Bangladesh escaping the eyes of the army and their Buddhist cohorts but, thousands others have been killed, stabbed to death, raped and mutilated in what the UN chief termed as ethnic cleansing and rest of world said, it was clearly a 'genocide' against the Rohingyas.
Streams of Rohingyas are still flowing in by crossing the Naf River after PM Hasina ordered the Bangladesh border opened to the refugees and asked the border guards to hold off any ruthless attempt to stop the influx in an unprecedented humanitarian gesture. Her acts of profound generosity have earned the Bangladesh PM the honour title as 'Mother of Humanity' and encouraged the world leaders to come in aid of the Rohingyas and press the Myanmar government to stop the genocide -- which Naypyidaw is yet to heed clearly.
*If the Rohingyas receive proper education and health services, their fates will change in the near future. With only food and shelter but no proper education, they will never come out of their inhuman plight and shall remain oppressed.*
The whole world was shaken by this brutal violence over the Rohingyas of Myanmar's Rakhine state by its army and allied Buddhist groups. The UN and many world leaders have sympathized towards these people but are yet to take any firm decision to force Myanmar to pull its soldiers back to the barracks.
Besides, some major UN members including China, Russia and India are taking side with Myanmar in the continuing crisis in our neighbouring country. This is an irony while all these country are known to be friendly to Bangladesh and supportive to its causes.
Sheikh Hasina also portrayed the devastating situation of Rohingyas during her recent speech at the UN General Assembly meeting. As a consequence, the world community has stepped forward to help them by providing food and other aids. But, few critical issues are yet to be resolved as despite being very sympathetic to these people but regretfully their number is huge that Bangladesh cannot host for long.
The dispute between the Rohingyas and the Buddhist community has been a long drawn out issue. It started during the 1940s, though according to many this has more deep rooted source. During World War II, the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar's northern Rakhine state allied with the British force and they were promised an independent country.
They got into war against the local Buddhists who were allies of the Japanese Army. The hatred became intense then. Later when India and Pakistan were given independence by the Brtitish, the Rohingyas tried to become part of Pakistan and to be part-off from Burma (now Myanmar).
After the independence in 1948, the newly formed Union government of Myanmar denied the Rohingya Muslims their right to citizenship. Later the military government in the 1980s also wiped them of their nationality. Moreover, the military force started to oppress these Rohingyas of Rakhine state.
There have been few incidents of insurgency from the side of the Rohingyas also but those could never match the barbaric torture meted out by the Myanmar army. That caused several events of Rohingya influx in Bangladesh in the 1980s and 1990s and now from August this year.
Moreover, these Rohingyas are mostly poor, and look unlikely to return to Myanmar anytime soon. As, these people were not recognized by the Myanmar's military government, they were deprived of all basic rights. That makes these Rohingyas different from any other refugees around the world as they are deprived of education for generations.
Specially, they did not receive any education. To date, the Rohingyas are alarmingly uneducated. Few of them only received some religious education at their home and that also in secret. They have no access to schools, let alone colleges or universities.
Since, they are uneducated it is very difficult to employ them in Bangladesh or any other country, which makes them a severe burden. In addition to that, the uneducated people can be easily diverted towards illegal activities for lure of beating hunger and deprivation.
Also they have no or little access to healthcare in Myanmar. That is why, many of them are sick. Due to extreme tortures, they have further lost their health and the conditions in the Rohingya camps are driving them to worse physically.
On top of that, with so many raped pregnant women, they will face severe medical conditions in the near future. All these are leading towards lower working capability of these Rohingyas. It will require elaborate health care to improve the physical condition of the refugees.
Various organizations, countries and individuals are sending help in the form of food, water, tents, medical supply and money for these Rohingyas who are living in inhuman conditions in a string of camps. But, only these helps will not be enough to improve the conditions. For that, besides food and shelter, we must provide education and strong medical support to them.
We have seen several madrasas being opened for the Rohingyas and we appreciate that. But, we are concerned also as we cannot be sure about the objectives of those who are operating these madrasas. It might be possible that their students could be lured onto the roads of terrorism with the help of religious education, something that we have seen around the world in the recent years.
Moreover, the terrorist organizations like ISIS, Neo-JMB etc target deprived and depressed people by providing them wrong religious education. So, these Rohingyas can be easily picked up by the terror groups.
Among these Rohingyas, children and teenagers are the majority and most of them are parentless or orphan. For improvement, these Rohingyas need schools with modern education and facilities. Their curriculums should be of international (English) and Burmese standards and language as they must return to Myanmar.
Their curriculum should not include anything in Bengali language. Some NGOs like; BRAC has set up few schools with Bengali curriculum, but that must be changed to English or Burmese. If they are provided proper education, not only the Rohingyas will be benefited but also Myanmar will get its benefit in the long run.
We must not forget that, our main focus should be on the proper repatriation and resettlement of the Rohingyas at the quickest possible time according to the recommendations of the Annan Commission. The UNHCR and other UN bodies, with the support of international community and the Bangladesh government, should prepare the curriculum of the schools for the Rohingyas -- in which international donors should invest for ensuring the educational facilities to these refugees.
Once educated, the Rohingyas will be able to stand up for their rights and will turn into assets for Myanmar.
Along with that, they must have proper medical and sanitation facilities, which call for huge investment from the international donors and UN bodies like WHO and UNICEF should work to ensure that for the Rohingya refugees. Issues of their physical and mental health must be addressed soon to make them sustain in the competitive world.
If the Rohingyas receive proper education and health services, their fates will change in the near future. With only food and shelter but no proper education, they will never come out of their inhuman plight and shall remain oppressed.
Most importantly, the world community needs to ensure the basic rights of these refugees and must strongly support their repatriation in Myanmar. Bangladesh government is preparing a list of refugees by registering them.
This list should be simultaneously vetted by the UNHCR as Myanmar might refuse the identity of these people while repatriating as they have done before. We must ensure that these Rohingyas are treated with all human rights specially education here in Bangladesh and also in Myanmar, their real homeland.
The writer is the Chief Editor, Mohammadi News Agency (MNA)