While our brains struggle to comprehend the magnitude of the trauma the Rohingya have faced, there are still Rohingya children and adolescents that continue living in Northern Rakhine State. These youth face extreme restrictions. Rohingya people have described the living conditions in Rakhine State as equivalent to an open air prison.
Entrenched discrimination in Rakhine State effects all areas of Rohingya life, including education. Only non-Rohingya teachers are permitted to teach in schools, and classrooms in Rakhine State are separated by ethnicity. Rakhine Buddhist students and Rohingya Muslim students are separated into different classrooms, exemplifying the apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine. The teachers are technically supposed to teach each ethnic group for 45 minutes per class; however, after finishing teaching the Rakhine students for the allotted time, the teachers usually only spend 10-15 minutes "teaching" the Rohingya students. Often they will spend the allotted time outside the classroom, or sitting in front of the class absorbed in their smartphone, while Rohingya students sit in the classroom waiting to learn. When teachers spend time with the Rohingya students, they teach classes in Rakhine or Burmese language, which can be difficult for Rohingya students who learn Rakhine and Burmese as second and third languages. Still, Rohingya students loyally show up for school every day.
Due to these practices, Rohingya high school students (who can afford it) are forced to seek tutoring from Rohingya teachers, which means having to attend tutoring both before and after school. The tutors use the same school curriculum and help the students understand what the teacher was supposed to be teaching them at school that day. Consequently, Rohingya youth are spending up to eleven hours in school every single day. In addition to this workload, middle/high school students have to carry the financial burden of attending school twice, needing tutors for six subjects costing their families $18 per month.
Although for many of us this is an insignificant amount of money, it is a substantial amount for Rohingya families trying to survive decades of systematic oppression, including restricted access to income. Often, adolescents who cannot afford the tuition fees are forced to drop out of school in order to pursue some kind of manual labor to help their families make ends meet.
This is where you can help. Youth Action for Education Rakhine (YAER), is a youth-based network in Rakhine that is helping both teachers and students in improving education. YAER is raising money to support ten students per grade from grade five to grade ten (total of 60 students) in covering their tuition fees. Funds will be directed to the teachers conducting the tuition lessons to ensure that funds are used for education.
For 60 high school level students:
One student: $3 × 6 subjects = $18 per month
60 students: $18 × 60 = $1080 per month
One year of tuition fees: $1080 x 12 months = $12,960
Rohingya people have often talked about how the loss of education for Rohingya people is equivalent to the loss of their future. This is our chance to contribute to a Rohingya-led effort to prevent that.
- Kidron & Rebekah Cannon
- Kidron and Rebekah Cannon
- Wayne Bleier
- Nelie Janssen
- Lisa G
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