Rohingya kids face a bleaker future as COVID-19 restricts access to education

Four years since the Rohingya exodus, Educo warns that refugee children are facing a bleaker future due to the prolonged closure of schools and limited access to child protection interventions brought about by the pandemic.

Matiur Rahaman, Educo’s Director Humanitarian Program says: “Due to the pandemic, schools and learning facilities for children have been closed indefinitely, as well as child-friendly spaces, multi-purpose recreational areas. Children are absolutely out of education. Child protection interventions have also been limited due to entry restrictions for humanitarian workers.”

“We are extremely concerned that if the situation continues, refugee children, particularly girls, are likely to be forced into child marriage, child labor, and even trafficking, as families struggle to cope with the pandemic.”

Educo is urging all stakeholders to develop strategies allowing refugee children to have increased access to education, through various ingenious online and offline learning modes, and ensure that adequate child protection services are available to them. The organization adds that the threat of emergencies such as massive fires in early 2021 clearly demonstrates the need to push and scale up alternative learning modes for the young population.

In response, Educo implemented a community-based learning project catered to adolescents, incorporating face-to-face interaction and digital learning education. Nadira, 13, a Rohingya refugee who is part of the project, says: “I thought I cannot go to school again but luckily I got enrolled in Educo’s home-based learning center, which was near my home. The teaching and learning methods are different here. We are using digital tab for learning.”

Rahaman furthers: “It’s been four long years, and the future of refugee children is still hanging in a balance. We know that COVID-19 is life-threatening but there should be a way to ensure children continue learning. We need to find a way so that refugee children and teens don’t lose their childhood and access to education. After all, child protection and education are life-saving interventions.”

Since 2018, Educo together with Childfund Korea have reached 48,000 children and adults through relief distribution, education, and child protection interventions. In the coming months, the organization will focus on youth and skills development of adolescents and young people, establishing of multi-purpose centers, and continuing vocational training and skills development sessions such as tailoring, solar panel repairing, and mobile phone repair through partners.