Saturday March 24, 2018 05:01 PM

Rohingya children allegedly facing racial segregation in Rakhine schools

Rohingya children allegedly facing racial segregation in Rakhine schools
File photo of students sitting for an exam at a school in Myanmar Collected from the website of Myanmar's Ministry of Information

'This is the first time I have heard exams are held in segregated halls anywhere on this earth on the basis of one's race and religion,' says a Rohingya father

Children of Rohingya families that are still living in strife-torn Rakhine, Myanmar are reportedly facing racial segregation while sitting for the school examinations along with other Buddhist students in the northeastern state’s Buthidaung township.

Some of those children’s parents, seeking anonymity, have shared this over mobile phone with the Rohingyas who have fled into Bangladesh and are currently living here as refugees, the Dhaka Tribune has found. The issue was also shared and protested by some Rohingya diaspora from different countries on social media.

The annual exams of fourth grade and eighth grade students started nationwide from Monday, and, apparently, the Rohingya chidren sat for the first test on separate halls away from the other students in the schools at Buthidaung, their families claimed.

The Myanmarese letter “Ba,” implicating “Bengali,” was reportedly written on the walls of the exam halls of the Rohingya students, whereas “Ta,” implicating “Taiyinthar” or natives, was written on halls where students of Rakhine, Dainet, Khami, Mro and Bama of Buddhist faith sat for the tests.

This is the first time I have heard exams are held in segregated halls anywhere on this earth on the basis of one’s race and religion. And I also believe this blatant discrimination in education sector is happening in Myanmar for the first time, and Buthidaung is the only place where it’s happening,” said the father of a fourth grader, requesting anonymity, who still lives there.

He said: “We think this is happening under the orders of the head of Rakhine State Education Department, Aung Kyaw Tun, who is a notorious extremist. At early stages of his career, he got transferred to other places because of extremist views. This is unacceptable and must be stopped.”

Rohingya rights activist Nay Say Lwin protested the matter on twitter and pointed out that such racism was a new dimension of persecution on the ethnic minority group.

The Rohingyas have long been denied citizenship by Myanmar, where many in the Buddhist majority also regard them as interlopers from Bangladesh and call them Bengalis.

On January 10, 2018, a post on the Myanmar President Office’s website said some 283 schools, including 98 in Maungdaw, 175 in Buthidaung and 10 in Rathedaung region, have been reopened after the military crackdown that started in late August last year.

It said: “Schools that were temporarily closed following terrorist attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army will be reopened, as peace and stability returns to the region. Out of the 650 schools, some 424 schools have been closed due to the violence.”

Another 46 schools will be reopened and preparations are underway to reopen 95 schools in northern Rakhine as soon as possible,” the post quoted a Rakhine State Education Department official.

According to the department’s December 2017 report, over 106,000 students had failed to resume studies after the schools at three Rakhine townships were reopened since mid-October, reports newspaper Myanmar Times.

The temporarily closed schools also have reportedly reopened, with nearly 53,000 students attending classes and over 100,000 absent.

Schools from the Bengali villages could not be reopened as most have fled to Bangladesh,” a Myanmar education department official told local media.

Around 700,000 Rohingyas have entered Bangladesh from Rakhine since August 25, 2017, according to Bangladesh government data. Apart from the recent influx, several hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have been living at two upazilas of Cox’s Bazar for many years.

Unicef recently said about 58% of the Rohingyas who fled into Bangladesh are children and need an opportunity to carry on their education.

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