August 25, 2020 — Three years since the start of the Rohingya crisis, more than 300,000 Rohingya refugee children in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh are missing out on an education due to the COVID-19 pandemic and government restriction on Internet access. 6,000 learning institutions in the largest refugee camp in the world are closed. In other parts of Bangladesh, governments and agencies are offering remote learning opportunities to children via the internet. However, in Cox’s Bazar, a government directive in place since 2019 to ban internet access in the camp is excluding Rohingya children from remote learning. In a new report, the IRC calls on Bangladesh authorities to ensure all refugees have consistent access to speedy internet services across all camps in Cox’s Bazar so that children can learn.
Gregory Matthews, Deputy Regional Director Asia, at the IRC, says:
“It is critical that Rohingya children do not miss out on learning opportunities amidst COVID-related restrictions. Since Rohingya refugees fled violence in Myanmar three years ago, children, who today account for 51% of the 860,243 Rohingya refugees living in Cox’s Bazar, have been unable to access quality education in Bangladesh, compounding the impact of over two decades of exclusion from education in Myanmar.
“Without a pathway to knowledge and skills, refugee children living in the Cox’s Bazar camps have little opportunity to support themselves in the future, exposing them to a higher risk of trafficking, child labour, and child marriage. We welcome the government’s approval of use of the Myanmar curriculum for Rohingya children and look forward to the benefits this program will bring Rohingya children. While the pilot program was postponed due to COVID-19 lockdown, if the government ensures appropriate internet connection and speeds, we can identify and pilot alternative digital learning technology to facilitate education for Rohingya children.”
"Girls are especially vulnerable as we see a global trend of increasing physical and sexual violence during lockdowns and rising exposure to predators due to increased child labor -- all this amidst reduced access to supportive adults such as teachers. But there is hope. Successful pilots like the IRC’s Pop-Up learning have indicated that quality at-home, digital learning is possible. With increased funding for education and more teacher training, we can boost education for refugees and local Bangladeshis.”
Many Rohingya refugees have been living in Cox’s Bazar for three years and there is uncertainty as to when they will return to Myanmar. This means children’s educational needs must be addressed for the long term. As the UK Government prepares to launch the new Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) next month, the IRC urges Ministers to ensure programmes that deliver education for marginalised groups, including girl's, are given adequate support through both high level diplomacy with host Governments, and through funding to front line responders able to deliver appropriate services. The FCDO should also address the reality that gender based violence (GBV) acts as a barrier to girls' accessing education and make a global investment to triple existing funds for tackling GBV.