One million refugees are in trouble for lack of telecommunications network and internet at Cox's Bazar Refugee Camps. We have been begging for network and internet connections from the Bangladesh Government in a state of panic.
We thank and remember the gratitude given to us by the Bangladeshi government and its people every moment as we are under refuge of their land ever since we were driven out by our own government in Myanmar. Most of us left our lands with brutal torture and persecution. Finally we fled to our neighboring country just to survive. Our homes and properties were burnt down by our government, some of us survived bleeding sword wounds , some from bullets wounds. Some had to leave their hands and legs. Some were swallowed by the Naf river. One cannot imagine how we escaped from genocidal hands.
We lived in shelter relatively peacefully until last year, when in September 1, 2019, our host government banned network and Internet within the camps. Since then we haven't been able to communicate with each other properly. Immediately after the network ban, local calls wouldn't even last more than 10 seconds. Sometimes, the calls would end automatically with just "hello" greetings.
"It is really difficult to send a message to someone through a phone call. I once couldn't inform to my relatives on time when my father died " Rehna Khatun says , a Rohingya woman. She added "When I can't answer a question I hear in the first, I have to redial another call to answer it. Calls barely last for a fw moments".
Due to this internet ban, we feel the world we live in is pitch dark, where we can't get any information and news. What's happening and what's going on in the world doesn't reach us on time. The news we hear is the news of yesterday, 3-4 days ago or last week. Some news die out before coming to our ears. All we hear is rumors. The truth comes to us slowly when the rumors relax, after having spread throughout the camps. Our mobile phones are left only to play games.
We are also forbidden to buy Wifi. If we really need to use the Internet, we go to access it from the wifi of host community who live near camp boundaries. Some of them allow us to use internet by paying monthly honorariums. Some don't allow us to use at all.
At the moment we fear not having internet for getting the essential information and updates on the COVID-19 pandemic that is spreading all over the world. Already we are unable to maintain social distancing to save ourselves in this overcrowded mega camps. Normally in such a global health crisis, one would rely on his/her government for protection; but for us, we have no government. We keep staring at the international community for protection, but sadly without Internet, we cannot reach them neither.
Written by Enaul Hasan, Rohingya refugee camps, Bangladesh, 17 April 2020.
Education is a process or system from which people can obtain effective approach, well manner, and ethics. Not only that, an erudite person can judge what is right and what is wrong for his future and he always keeps aptitude to standardize his/her family and community on the right path. Other hand an unlettered always retains his/her involvement in various superstition, delinquencies and even commit illicit act as he/she has no knowledge to differ what is right way and what is wrong way. So, everyone has access to education as far as one wants to study. And it is included in human right. But the Rohingya are only the people who have limitation to study and they are cancelled from higher study.
Mr, Karim Ullah an ex refugee teacher of EPRC (Education and Protection for Refugee Children) said, “We are refugee of 1991 & 1992. Initially, our children used to study privately on Burmese curriculum in informal way and around in 1996 non formal Burmese curriculum was introduced by Save the Children with the support of UNHCR and Bangladesh government. When more than a few batches of students completed primary level, we urged several times to UNHCR and Bangladesh govt for high school so that our children able to get right of entry to higher study. We enjoyed no high school with Burmese curriculum. Education facility was limited to primary school. This system had been continued till the year 2007. In 2008 UNHCR with the permission of Bangladesh govt continued Bangla National Curriculum Textbook Board (NCTB) non formal curriculum in refugee camp. Through this system, our children promoted to class five. On our solicitation the UNHCR and govt established two secondary high schools in two separate camps where our children had access to study to class seven only. After Rohingya influx in the year 2017, the government publicly announced that education facilities with Bangla will not be provided to Rohingya children, and so, our children have been cancelled from studying with Bangla non formal NCTB curriculum from 2018 to till now, despite our children had been accustomed with the education system of Bangladesh National curriculum for 12 years.
Mohammed Jobair stated, “I’m a student of class seven. I go to secondary high school in Nayapara camp. I started going to pre primary school in 2011 and in 2012 I was promoted to class one where I got four textbooks (1. Bangla literature “Amar Bangla Boi protom”. 2. Mathematics in Bangla version. 3. English for today. 4.Burmese literature) In class one I read four textbooks where three textbooks were of NCTB curriculum! And gradually I am promoted to class seven with full NCTB curriculum of Bangladesh. In our schools here is only one Burmese textbook and other subjects are of Bangla version. We have been studying with no full textbooks from 2018. Earlier the year of 2019 we cordially urged to education implementing partner (CODEC) and UNHCR to continue class eight and further facilities for higher study but we got no responses from concern authority. Other hand the Bangladesh govt banned the NCTB Bangla curriculum generally in refugee camps after refugee influx in the year 2017. Our fore generation was familiarized with Burmeses curriculum for about 12 years and we have been adapted with Bangla curriculum for about 12 years. The sorrowful thing is that Bangladesh govt banned NCTB curriculum in refugee camps after refugee influx in 2017. I had an ambition to be a doctor so that I can serve my poor community. I need higher study that I cannot deserve to be a doctor. Taking birth in a Rohingya refugee family is my sin, in school our teachers always used to advice us to read attentively forasmuch as we able to fulfill our ambition and reach to our destination and goal. We were taught that education is for all. But in practical life, it hasn’t any reality. We are only Rohingya refugee children who are deprived of doorway to higher education all over the world though we have been passing for three decades in refugee camp like home arrest”. Notably it is to mention that our ex generation used to study with Burmese curriculum after over one decade we are introduced with NCTB Bangla National curriculum. This year NCTB curriculum has been banned. Now we are in confusing situation with our education system. If we are unable to study with NCTB curriculum furthermore, we have to be backward for over one decade to reach in present level"
A new arrival Rohingya student came in 2017 described that he passed class eight in Myanmar and unfortunately he escaped the clearance operation committed by Myanmar junta in 2017 and sheltered in Bangladesh. Here, he has no opportunity to continue his study. The year is passing and he is waiting for the chance of study facilities. He also narrated that thousands of students who passed secondary high schools in Myanmar came to Bangladesh are losing their hopes due to unavailability of educational facilities in camps. Earlier this year the govt took a decision to provide education to Rohingya children with informal Burmese curriculum that hasn’t continued yet. The young generation came in Bangladesh passing primary and secondary schools in Myanmar going to be ruined as in camps here is no any advantages and chance to resume the study from the class completed in Myanmar’’. In refugee camps we have been taught in confined curriculum made by Coxsbazar education sector which is far difference from Burmese curriculum. It is also limited to level one to level three (Level one to Level three = class one to four)
A Rohingya female student namely Hamida resides in Mosoni camp -26 said, ‘I passed class seven with full Bangla National curriculum and obtained grade (A+) in the year 2015 during the tenure of implementing partner Village Education Resource Center (VERC). After completion of class seven we had no ways and facilities to run our study furthermore. Our education facility is limited until class seven only. Here are no specific facilities for female education in camp. That’s why, most of the Rohingya refugee females are far from education. And inadvertently, most of all females and males keep their selves-engagement in unlawful deeds, such as – early marriage, polygamy, child labor and become unemployed, and even anybody can persuade most of us to commit unsocial act as we have less knowledge to other etc.’
I wanted to be a teacher as I can provide knowledge and spread light of education to my unlettered community but couldn’t because of less facility to higher education for both refugee female and male. If we are unable to study like today, verily, our next generation will be nowhere to be found and vanished in the world, said Hamida.
Myanmar government has been denying the citizenship of Rohingya ethnic minority for long time and even the tyrant Myanmar government cancelled Rohingya citizenship in the year 1982. Only not so, no Rohingya student is able to study up to matriculation producing own identity in Myanmar. Due to numerous inhuman practices on Rohingya, two lakh over Rohinhya become refugees in Bangladesh in 1992. Through repatriation process, most of the refugee went back to Myanmar and over 28000 refugees have been staying in Bangladesh refugee camp looking toward their bright future and durable solution. These 28000 refugees are staying in two separate registered camps (Kutupalong and Nayapara) northern side of Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh. About 60% children are of age 5-18 years who have no any proper access to education with standard curriculum and even they have no any admittance to higher study up to class seven in spite of their existent in refugee camp for over 28 years. Two generation of registered refugees passed away in camp life without enjoying educational conveniences with standard curriculum. Other hand in 2017 over one million refugees arrived in Bangladesh. They have thousands of students passed secondary and primary schools in Myanmar with standard Burmese curriculum. What will be happened in their future?
Higher education is the most important for refugee children. Due to unavailability of higher study, refugee children and parents becoming hopeless and unknowingly they are gradually engaging in early marriage, polygamy, domestic violence and other superstitions. If they live in such condition, their situation might be deteriorated in near future. So, the concern authority should take effective measures to establish or continue the facilities of higher study with NCTB curriculum for registered refugee children and also higher educational facilities with Burmese curriculum for those who came in the year 2017.
Written by Mohammed Shafique, Rohingya refugee camps, Bangladesh, 15 May 2020.
Coronavirus has spread across the entire world today. As Rohingya survivors in the refugee camps of Bangladesh we feel especially at risk. We are all fearful and trying our best to prepare for the day that Covid-19 reaches our people.
Around the world, people are told that hygiene and hand washing are vital in preventing the spread of the virus. But we live in refugee camps that lack hygiene, sanitation and access to good, clean water. That is a fact of our everyday life. Coronavirus pandemic or not, and we cannot change it. There are more than a million people in our camps; our shelters are very close to one another. This makes it difficult for us to dispose of our waste in safe, clean ways. Additionally, the camps lack systematic waste disposal systems.
The other advice to prevent the spread of the disease is social distancing. But our place is overcrowded. Our shelters are already full of many family members, and there is no space between one household and the next. It’s almost impossible for us to maintain distance from others.
At Rohingya Youth Association (RYA), despite our difficult circumstances, we have been trying our best to provide health awareness programs to protect our communities from the virus. This has been difficult since gatherings of people in public spaces and mosques are now not possible due to the government guidelines on social distancing inside of the camps. Now, along with other community-based organizations, we are conducting a door-to-door information services run by our volunteer team, but it is difficult to reach all that need information. In conducting this work, we are very worried because we are at increased risk of Covid-19. A simple solution to providing effective and risk-free public health information services to survivors in the camps, would be for the Bangladesh government to lift the restrictions placed on internet and mobile data that have been applied to the camp residents.
Involving women in public health awareness campaigns is essential and has been a focus of the community response to the threat of Covid-19 in the camps. As primary carers within the household, it often falls to mothers, sisters and wives to educate other family members, ensure hygiene for the household, and care for those who fall sick. Without women as central and leading actors in the fight against the pandemic, the community as a whole will suffer. Fear and worry about the impact of the virus on family members and the lack of access to medical support and advice has already affected women in the camps. Community awareness and support projects that are inclusive of women can help to ensure that measures are taken at the household and community level in an informed and calm way. But such projects cannot substitute for the more fundamental changes needed to effectively tackle the pandemic in refugee camps.
No amount of information and awareness-raising can save us, for example, when we do not have the power to change our living conditions. We are very worried about access to food during the lockdown, which has been in place for over week now. For many people, hunger is more of worry than the virus itself. There is also a lack of access to treatment and healthcare for refugee communities.
Bangladesh is facing problems meeting the needs of the rest of the population in relation to coronavirus. Even citizens of Bangladesh are facing barriers to getting treated including being refused treatment at multiple hospitals. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had to instruct doctors that if they refuse to treat patients, they will lose their jobs. What hope then, is there for us as non-citizens confined to camps in Bangladesh? We face difficulty in accessing essential medical services even without the pressures that coronavirus places on healthcare systems. The health of citizens will surely be prioritized over our own.
We need guaranteed access to hospitals, public health information and food security. It is short-sighted for the world to ignore this. If the virus is allowed to take hold and spread in the refugee camps, it can only have a negative impact on the health of other populations in Bangladesh. Protecting us refugees, will also help protect Bangladesh’s healthcare systems and save lives amongst Bangladesh’s populations.
Written by Lucky and Khin Maung, Rohingya Youth Association (RYA), Rohingya refugee camps, Bangladesh, April 22, 2020
"I saw the dead body of my brother after he was beaten to death following his imprisonment. Why was he imprisoned? I don't yet know... His body had torture marks all over it... His head was torn apart... His inmates recounted to me later about his cries while he was tortured...
"I saw on my way to Bangladesh, a boat being sunk. There were about 30 people in it, they were all fleeing for their lives when they were shot at. I saw the boat sink gradually. Pepole just drowned... I don't know what to recount, I have so much....
"Are we animals? Why do others live like humans - the Buddishts, the Hindus, why are we treated like animals? And they want to repatriate us... Where will I go my brother? Back to the same place where I had to live like an animal all my life? They take away my own hard-worked farming, my own cattle, they would never let our children get jobs, they would never allow them to go to college or university, our people are jailed without any reason, tortured and killed, and we can't say anything..."
Narrator's name is undisclosed for privacy purposes, interviewed by Raiss Tinmaung
"All of a sudden the military entered our village one morning. They convened in a circle and discussed for a while. Then they made hand gestures and dispersed in different directions. I was at the house of my maulana, who I had known since childhood. He asked me "the military is here, what will you do son?" Not much later after he had asked that question, the military was at our door. My maulana stepped outside as ordered, and so did I with others that were in the household. I saw many other people from neighboring households also gathered in the street in front, they were all afraid. Then one soldier asked me if there were any others remaining inside. I said I will go and check. I was lucky, as that is what saved my life. I didn't return after going in, I hid inside the room and stayed put. There was a window from where I peeked outside for sometime.
"Everyone outside who were standing were now in squatting position with their hands behind their necks. A soldier stepped up to my maulana and demanded him to stand up. My maulana was 108 years old, he couldn't react immediately. They kicked him and he fell to the side of the road, then he was hacked with a machete... (pause). They ordered another person to standup, he was slow to respond as well, he was a blind man. They hacked him as well and threw him to the side of the road... I couldn't bear seeing anymore, I crawled inside the room and hid in there until sunset. I could hear cries and yellings. There were also gunshots ringing from further away. This continued until sunset, at which time things calmed down a little. I walked out of the house and saw blood all over the place. They had taken away the dead bodies, except for one. Later that night, I and another villager buried that body together. We left the village and saw many other dead bodies in the streets. There were wheelbarrows with dead bodies piled on them..."
Narrator's name is undisclosed for privacy purposes, interviewed by Raiss Tinmaung
"Since the events of 9 Oct they would come to our village all the time and order men and women to come out of their houses into the streets. They would pick the women they liked, and would take them into one of the empty houses and rape them. The others, they would just beat and aggress, right on the streets...
"My wife was 9 months pregnant. One of the soldiers yelled at her 'move!' She was moving, but she wasn't fast enough. The soldier kicked her with his boots. She fell, and he kicked her again, this time on her abdomen...
"Three days later my wife gave birth to a dead child... That very night, the soldiers came again to our village and began raiding the houses. They were coming for us and so I and everyone in the house fled for their lives. My wife couldn't leave; she laid sick on the bed...
"I and my children returned to the house a little later. They saw my wife lying in the same bed, dead, with blood all over. They had stabbed her everywhere...
"I and my children carried my wife's dead body to the woods behind our house to bury it. It was late at night and we had just begun digging when we heard the military coming again. We had to run again... I couldn't even bury my wife..."
Narrator's name is undisclosed for privacy purposes, interviewed by Raiss Tinmaung
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