SOS Children’s Villages is addressing the basic educational needs of Rohingya children who have no access to formal schooling in Bangladesh refugee camps.
Five child-care spaces set up by SOS Children’s Villages Bangladesh in February 2018 provide educational and recreational activities, plus nutritious food, for 350 children each day. More than half of the 909,000 Rohingya living in refugee shelters are children.
Bangladesh has struggled to cope with one of the world’s largest refugee crises since thousands of Rohingya began fleeing neighbouring Myanmar in August 2017. The host country has not been able to provide formal schooling for the vulnerable children.
“The main problem is that these children are growing up and they cannot get a proper education," says Dr Enamul Haque, Deputy National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Bangladesh. "They can only get informal education in their own language.”
The child-care spaces use Rohingya parents and volunteers to teach children in their native language and they also learn basic English, says Dr Haque. SOS Children’s Villages is also networking with partner organisations that have set up temporary learning centres in the refugee settlements in the Cox’s Bazar region.
Children enjoy recreational and educational activities at SOS Children's Villages child-care spaces in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Photos by Rehman Asad
Monsoon season approaches
Bangladesh is prone to landslides and other disasters caused by cyclones and June-October monsoon rains, creating additional challenges for the refugees. The coastal region of Cox’s Bazar was spared the impact of Cyclone Fani, which hit eastern India and other parts of Bangladesh in early May 2019.
Dr Haque says conditions have improved since the 2018 monsoon season. Immunisation campaigns have reduced the risk of diphtheria and other preventable diseases. Steps have been taken to improve health services and hygiene for refugees.
“People are now staying in more settled areas”, Dr Haque says. “There is water, sanitation and hygiene available to them. The overall situation is still not ideal, but better than before.”
Supporting hundreds of children daily
The five child-care spaces run by SOS Children's Villages provides humanitarian support to 280 families. Children - 350 in total - stay in the child-care spaces from 9 am to 3 pm so their parents can work or do other activites, says Zahidul Islam, the SOS emergency response programme coordinator for Cox's Bazar.
"We are aware that safety of children in the camp is a concern," Zahidul says. "Our child-care spaces are child friendly so their parents can remain tension free while keeping their children there."
The children receive nutritous meals and learn proper hygiene, Zahidul explains. "In every child-care space there is a teacher who is helping in educational support," he added. "Children take part in various recreational activities so that they can settle down psychologically and adjust to daily life."
More than half the Rohingya refugees living in the Cox's Bazar settlements are children.
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