The United Nations says hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim children lack proper education both in Myanmar and border camps in Bangladesh, warning that the Myanmarese kids could become “a lost generation.”
The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, on Thursday gave a bleak assessment of the outlook for Rohingya children on either side of the border, saying refugees who have fled Myanmar and entered Bangladesh faced risks, including disease and floods and those still in Myanmar lacked access to proper education.
“We are talking about risking the loss or the potential loss of a generation of Rohingya children,” UNICEF spokesman Simon Ingram told news conference in Geneva.
“It isn’t just the half a million children or so on the Bangladeshi side of border but it’s also those who are still left behind in Rakhine state, whose access to education is patchy at best and highly limited,” Ingram said after spending six weeks in the refugee camps in the Bangladeshi district of Cox’s Bazar.
UNICEF spokesman Alastair Lawson-Tancred also said Bangladesh prohibits refugees from receiving formal education as the government is concerned the Rohingya population might become a “permanent fixture.”
The UN estimated 530,000 to 600,000 stateless Rohingya Muslims remained in troubled Rakhine State, including about 360,000 children, he said.
The UN official further said the conditions in Rakhine remain unsafe, adding that the prospects for the return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar anytime soon were bleak, despite a voluntary repatriation agreement signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh in June.
There are four million Rohingya around the world, the majority living outside their ancestral land. More than 700,000 members of the minority have fled the state-sponsored violence to Bangladesh over the past nine months.
Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed in January to complete the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees by 2020, followed up by an agreement with the UN last month.
Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh and experts say a recent deal between Myanmar and the United Nations falls short of guaranteeing the Muslims’ safe return to Myanmar.