UNICEF: Substantial progress in providing education to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees

Creating an education programme from scratch

Alastair Lawson Tancred
রোহিঙ্গা শরণার্থী শিশু
UNICEF Bangladesh/2019/Sujan
03 December 2019

For Rohingya refugee sisters Maimuna, 9, and Artiqa, 8 (pictured below with their brother Mohammed Rafiq),  the opening in May 2019 of a UNICEF- supported learning centre has had a dramatic effect on their lives.

It was the first time they have been given the opportunity to attend classes for three hours a day, six days a week at the centre – run by UNICEF partner Risda – in Camp 15.

“It is heartwarming to see the progress they have made since this Learning Centre was set up in May 2019,” says Risda Training Specialist Abu Hanif Sarker.

“Before then there were no opportunities for the children to learn, but now they can read, write and express themselves more effectively.”

Among the teachers at the Centre in Camp 15 is 21-year-old Rohingya refugee Mohammed Rafiq, the older brother of the two sisters.

He too has benefitted enormously from the opening of the centre, where he works as a teacher.

The experience of the three siblings reflects the substantial progress that has been made by UNICEF in providing education to Rohingya refugees over the last two and a half years.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­There is a tangible improvement in the quality of the education delivered in the learning centres, with new textbooks for students and lesson plans and training materials for teachers in English and Burmese.

Maimuna and Artiqa with their teacher

Biggest mass movement since 1947

Thousands of refugee children are now attending classes following the August 2017 exodus from Myanmar which presented Bangladesh with a huge humanitarian and logistical crisis.

It was arguably the biggest mass movement of people in South Asia since the partition of India 60 years earlier.

More than half a million Rohingya refugees streamed across the border fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar in the space of six weeks.  This number eventually climbed to 745,000 refugees, all seeking shelter at an unprecedented level.

Aid agencies scrambled to respond to the immediate needs of the Rohingya population, as the people of Bangladesh opened their doors to their destitute neighbours.

রোহিঙ্গা শরণার্থী শিশু
UNICEF Bangladesh/2019/Sujan

Initially, the focus was on a life-saving response, providing water, food, healthcare and vaccinations to prevent deaths and disease outbreaks.

But today, the humanitarian situation has stabilized with the emphasis shifting towards improving and strengthening the quality of services delivered.

The network of temporary learning centres that were established throughout the camps in the early months of the crisis has been expanded and strengthened to provide a safer and more protective learning environment, along with better psychosocial support to children who had experienced unimaginable suffering.

UNICEF’s education provision in the camps

2,500 learning centres with 500 more planned for 2020

74 multipurpose centres in the camps, serving 13,109 adolescents

4,800 teachers trained to use the Learning Competency Framework and Approach

At least 214,000 pupils in the camps attending UNICEF-supported learning centres and home-based learning facilities

48 percent of pupils attending UNICEF-supported facilities are girls and 0.3 percent have disabilities

Because neither the Bangladesh nor the Myanmar curriculums are permitted in the camps, UNICEF instead has introduced an informal syllabus known as the Learning Competency Framework and Approach (LCFA).

রোহিঙ্গা শরণার্থী শিশু
UNICEF Bangladesh/2019/Sujan

The LCFA is now being progressively rolled out throughout the camps. It is loosely aligned to the national curriculums of Bangladesh and Myanmar and comprises a structured set of teaching and learning materials., with lessons designed for children aged four to 14 in English and Burmese languages.

Teachers as a result are now receiving basic training on subject-wide pedagogy, including lesson planning, and are continuously monitored by more experienced teachers.      

Pupils today like Maimuna and Artiqa are studying Maths, Burmese, English and Life Skills (for Levels 1 and 2) and Science (for Levels 3 and 4). The contribution to this huge logistical challenge from our various partners -- especially Bangladeshi NGOs – has been immense.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­UNICEF has in recent months also made concrete progress in addressing the shortage of qualified teachers in the camps by providing more on-the-job mentoring, teacher training groups and professional development programmes.

A network of multipurpose child and adolescent centres in the camps has recently been developed which are delivering a more comprehensive and rounded education.

UNICEF has continued to advocate for enhanced education opportunities for Rohingya refugee children and adolescents and are continuing to explore options to assess and certify learning outcomes achieved by Rohingya children in the current informal education system.

Another important improvement is the placement of children in classes according to their academic competency – rather than their age – after one of the most comprehensive academic assessments ever to be conducted in the camps was completed in December 2018. The results of the assessment placed 180,000 Rohingya children in classes according to their abilities. All children who have begun attending learning centres after this date are now assessed.

For children such as Maimuna and Artiqa, the dark days of 2017 are a long way away.


For more information on UNICEF’s advocacy position in relation to the education of Rohingya children in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, please see our recent Advocacy Alert issued in August 2019 (specifically pages 18-19 and 38-39):