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Inspiring children: A story of two Rohingya teachers

By Nazzina Mohsin

On a warm Monday morning of May, Abu Bakkar Siddik was seen walking around a Rohingya refugee community at Shamlapur in Cox’s Bazar. He was tracking down absent children in his class and bringing them back to ‘Kadam’ learning centre.

Monsoon is setting in Bangladesh. With this changing season, anxiety among refugee population is increasing. Many of them are worried, often queuing in a long line to receive aid to protect their homes. Sometimes there are tarpaulins, or bamboos. Sometimes there aqua-tabs to purify water, or hygiene kits to clean off day’s dirt. As they become busy collecting relief items, parents, or caregivers of children sometimes forget it is time to send their little ones to learning centres.

On similar days to this, teachers like Siddik are not only helping children learn but they also transform to become active volunteers who ensure children are attending the lessons regularly.

Siddik is a father, too. His three children are also attending another UNICEF-supported learning centre. “I did not anticipate to become an elementary teacher one day. I was an entrepreneur. I had a pharmacy in Maungdaw. We were not rich, but we were doing well,” he says, thinking back on his life in Myanmar.

Siddik lost his business when he fled with his young family and reached Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh to seek safety. “They burned down an entire village next to ours. I think every family deserted our village, fearing we will be Burmese military’s next target,” Siddik does not know what happened to his home or his pharmacy. He wishes life was not so full of hardships for his young children and wife. “It is so difficult now. We live under plastic sheets here. These are not proper homes. I am lucky to have some earning as I am a teacher here, but it is still significantly small compare to what I used to earn,” Siddik worries for his children and all other Rohingya children’s future.

Heroman seems to have similar thoughts as Siddik. He is a polite, young man who fled persecution in Rakhine State of Myanmar in October 2016 but his entire family joined him after attacks on their area spread in August 2017. He is now a teacher in ‘Dalia’ learning centre.

His Rohingya name is Junno Ullah, but he goes by his Burmese name, “We all need a Burmese name to be registered in school in Myanmar.” His aim is to help Rohingya children learn and not forget their root with Burmese language. He wanted to go to university one day. “But we are not allowed,” he says sadly, “I managed to attend school up to grade 10. Rohingyas are not allowed to study beyond this. Education could be a breakthrough for many Rohingya children, if only they are given a chance, like all other children.”

In these two learning centres, children appear to be enthusiastic to learn new things, rhyme away loudly, play with their favourite toys and draw with crayons. “My favourite crayon is green,” Saleha joyously expressed, “because I love tree and I like drawing green trees,” she added.

Fatema says, “I love counting and rhymes but I like writing in Burmese, too. I learn to spell new words every day,” showing off her writing that she has been practicing in her class. 

‘Dalia’ and ‘Kadam’ are only two of 866 learning centres UNICEF has set up with local partners in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar area. Around 90,000 children are attending these centres. More than 500 learning centres are supported by King Abdullah Foundation. This ongoing partnership between the Foundation and UNICEF has brought some hopes and normalcy in thousands of conflict-affected children’s lives.

Thanks to King Abdullah Foundation’s support, UNICEF with its partners has set up 500 learning centres such as Kadam and Dalia to help children continue with learning opportunities and give them a sense of normalcy in their highly distressful life.




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