UNICEF: Against the odds, children begin the new school year in Rohingya refugee camps

Despite fires burning down learning centres and Cyclone Mocha’s wrath, a record 300,000 Rohingya refugee children attend first day of school

23 July 2023
A record 300,000 children are enrolled for the 2023/24 school year in the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
UNICEF/UNI411470/Lateef

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh, 23 July 2023 – Against the odds of displacement, fires burning down learning centres, and Cyclone Mocha’s wrath, classrooms in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh are filling up today with children, excited on the first day of school. Thanks to expanded education opportunities for teenagers and girls, a record 300,000 children are enrolled for the 2023/24 school year.

The new academic year marks the first time that Rohingya refugee children of all ages will be studying under the Myanmar Curriculum. Since its launch in 2021, this formal curriculum has gradually been expanded with grades 3-5 and grade 10 opening today for the first time in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, significantly increasing learning opportunities for both older and younger children.

“Rohingya refugee children want to learn, and to turn their hopes and dreams for a better future to actual potential.” said Mr. Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh. “The single most important ingredient for ensuring a safe and dignified return of these children to Myanmar is ensuring that they can continue their education while they are here in Bangladesh. I urge our partners and donors to stand by UNICEF as we deliver on our promise to provide education for every Rohingya refugee child.”

In addition to the new opportunities for older children, a dedicated campaign has brought more than 13,000 children who were out of school into the classroom. Efforts to support adolescent girls to continue their education are key to the record attendance this year. Due to social norms, parents are often reluctant to send girls to school once they reach puberty. In response, UNICEF and partners have worked closely with the refugee community to demonstrate to parents the benefits of education for girls, to provide girls-only classrooms, and to organize chaperoning to classes by female mentors.

Delivering education in the largest refugee settlement in the world is an immense operation. One million refugees – half of them children – have lived in the densely populated camps in Bangladesh since 2017 when they fled violence and persecution in neighbouring Myanmar. Education for Rohingya refugee children is provided through 3,400 learning centres – 2,800 of which are supported by UNICEF – as well as through community-based learning facilities.

On the first day of school in the camps, UNICEF appeals for US$33 million to urgently support education for Rohingya refugee children in the 2023/24 academic year.

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Kusali Nellie Kubwalo
UNICEF Bangladesh
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UNICEF Bangladesh
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