Rohingya children show their thirst for learning by joining one of Tearfund‘s safe spaces, where they can play, draw, write poems, talk to a trained therapist, do informal maths and sing songs together.
No school might seem like the dream for most British children but for young Rohingya refugees, they want nothing more than to get back into education to pursue their dreams.
Christian development agency Tearfund is working in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh, home to hundr of thousands of Rohingya Muslims and their children who have fled persecution in Myanmar.
Boredom is a real problem for the thousands of youngsters in the camp who are unable to access education and are struggling to fill their hours each day.
Tearfund has set up clubs and safe spaces for young people to come and draw, learn some simple math, talk to trained trauma counsellors, and play.
With the children unable to attend local Bangladeshi schools, the interruption to their education has proved a major challenge, in addition to the boredom.
In response to the need, Tearfund has started work on a new curriculum for them to follow that focuses on life skills, including business and leadership training.
James Rana, Rohingya Response Manager for Tearfund, said: “A whole generation of Rohingya children have no opportunity to pursue their dreams, and a future of poverty becomes more and more likely.
“For them, it seems school‘s out permanently, not just for summer.
“We are working to provide skills and fun for the children, as well as vital relief to families, who are living through such a difficult time.”
Kobir Ahmed, a 15-year-old in Cox’s Bazar whose real name has been changed for security reasons, admitted that he didn’t like living in the camp.
“We don’t have our own house, I can’t go to school, I have nothing to do. I just roam around,” he said.
“I don’t feel good, I just feel bored. We don’t have freedom here.”
Before having to flee his home in Mynamar, Ahmed was a keen student. Despite not being able to attend school, he still dreams of being a doctor one day. At the same time, he fears it may be 10 or 15 years before he is able to return home.
Kobir Ahmed, 15, who says “I can’t go to school, I have nothing to do… I just feel bored.”
“Boredom is a real problem, especially for children and adolescents as it can lead them into trouble,” Rana continued.
Tearfund is working with local partner COAST (the Coastal Association for Social Transformation) and CCDB (the Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh) to set up clubs specifically for adolescents.
These clubs provide a safe space for teenagers in the camp to meet together, read, play and receive trauma counselling, as well as learn about health and hygiene.
“Many people cannot forget what they have witnessed and we know the negative effects of trauma in childhood can last a lifetime,” said Rana.
Tearfund has built 16 centres in the camp that can care for up to 800 children. The spaces are opened up to adults in the afternoons, offering psycho-social support, and can also double up as emergency shelters in the event of cyclones.
Tearfund‘s Head of Asia Region, Steve Collins, said: “My children, like others in the UK, are enjoying their summer break from education with only occasional periods of boredom.
“There are thousands of Rohingya refugees aged under 18 years old for whom this state is reversed – boredom is the norm and their thirst for learning is barely satisfied.
“They are already coping with the day-to-day difficulties common to camp life, such as heavy rains, flooding, fragile temporary shelters, poor sanitation, disease and reliance on food distributions.”