Bangladesh + 1 more

No Time to Lose: An Urgent Call for Access to Quality Education for Rohingya Children in Cox’s Bazar

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Executive Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on education around the world, with the closure of teaching institutions impacting an estimated 91 percent of students -- approximately 1.6 billion children and young people. But for Rohingya children, adolescents and youths in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, interruptions and barriers to education are not new. Government restrictions on access to certified and standardised education opportunities have left informal education by humanitarian agencies as the only pathway to any form of education. A pilot of the Myanmar curriculum targeting 10,000 Rohingya students was due to begin in 2020 but was postponed after COVID-19 lockdown and the closure of learning facilities.

In this report the International Rescue Committee (IRC) demonstrates how informal education programming in Cox's Bazar is constrained by a number of major challenges: limited and short-term funding; low quality of teaching; programme restrictions and approval delays; infrastructural limitations; and low levels of enrolment and student retention -- all challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 outbreak and response. Ultimately, informal education programming will always be limited by the lack of any form of accreditation or qualifications for graduating students. Certified educational programmes could offer Rohingya children the greatest opportunity for self-determination and development, and facilitate their eventual voluntary return to Myanmar or a third-country of resettlement.

At present, the Rohingya crisis is becoming protracted: refugee returns to Myanmar are unlikely in the short to medium term. Evidence indicates that even if repatriation started today, it could take as long as 13 years for all refugees to be repatriated. Today, there are over 900,000iv Rohingya refugees residing in Cox's Bazar -- over 500,000 of whom are children who currently need, or will soon need, a quality education. The protracted nature of the refugee situation requires a set of solutions that address children's educational needs in the medium-to-long term.

This brief outlines the current barriers to education provision, the effects of COVID-19 on education and the opportunity for distanced learning in the camps, the need for an expansion of education provision in Cox's Bazar, and recommendations for the Government of Bangladesh, donors, humanitarian agencies and institutional partners.

Summary of key recommendations:

  1. UNICEF and UNESCO should identify and pilot alternative digital learning technology using the Myanmar curriculum.

  2. Humanitarian agencies and partners should expand the pilot of the Myanmar curriculum across all ages and grades.

  3. Ensure all refugees have consistent access to internet services and phone connection across all camps.

  4. Humanitarian agencies and partners should work to improve education sector coordination and quality assurance with active engagement of the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh.

  5. The GoB should work towards creating a conducive policy environment that allows planning, coordination and funding for a whole of society approach to education which benefits both refugees and their host community.