COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh
Rohingya refugees, who have been living for years in crammed camps in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar district, see higher education as a pathway to a dignified life.
"As a member of the civilized world, it is our basic humanitarian right to get a higher education for our existence as a nation in the future," Mohammad Hamidullah, a Rohingya youth who was a secondary level student at the time of the August 2017 massacre of Rohingya men, women and children in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, told Anadolu Agency.
According to reports by international organizations including Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled a brutal military crackdown in Rakhine since Aug. 25, 2017 and crossed into Bangladesh, taking their total number in the South Asian country to over 1.2 million.
Hamidullah is among those who migrated to Bangladesh in a perilous week-long journey with his family, including his mother and two sisters.
He is still unsure about the whereabouts of his father.
"Members of the Tatmadaw (Myanmar army) detained my father at gunpoint in 2012, and there hasn’t been a trace of him since. Despite such a huge disaster in our family, I somehow managed to continue my education up to class 10 (level 10) before our migration to Bangladesh in 2017," he said.
"After taking shelter in a refugee camp in Bangladesh, I haven't had a chance to continue my education," he added, noting that if everything had gone smoothly, he would have been a university student now.
Referring to his friends, he said he knows at least 100 Rohingya youths who were studying at the secondary level during the August 2017 exodus.
"Please find any mechanism so we can continue our education for the future leadership and dignified survival of our nation," Hamidullah, who is a resident of Rohingya camp no. 5, urged the world community.
Echoing his sentiments, another Rohingya youth, Ziaur Rahman, who teaches English to the children of the forcibly displaced people at a camp-based learning center, said the international community should arrange quotas at different educational institutes for Rohingya across the world.
"We are growing up without an education. Only a limited number of our new generation is getting just a primary level education at the camp-based learning centers. No nation can survive long without a higher education," he added.
Rahman also described the current situation in Myanmar.
"We are barred from getting a higher education under various pretexts in Myanmar, and now in Bangladesh, we have no scope to get a higher education with our identity as a stateless people without refugee status," he said.
"What is our future? How will our next generation survive?"
- Dedicated higher education facility
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Khin Maung, the founder and executive director of the Cox's Bazar-based Rohingya Youth Organization (RYO), said the international community in collaboration with the Bangladesh government can develop a higher education facility for Rohingya.
"Education is a basic human right, so it will be for everyone. Higher education is necessary for Rohingya students because it is their dream. Every student has a particular dream in life. For example, someone wants to be a doctor, and so he or she must complete higher studies," Maung said.
Referring to education as a basic right of every citizen, he added that education is the backbone of a nation, and without higher and quality education, it is very difficult to survive.
Developed countries should provide scholarship opportunities for Rohingya students so that they can pursue higher education in different countries, he said and added that the UN can help persuade its member states to approve scholarship opportunities for Rohingya students at their respective countries' universities.
He also expressed his gratitude to the government of Bangladesh for its generosity and hosting of over one million Rohingya for years.
"There are many private universities in Bangladesh, and so it is very easy for the government to give the opportunity of higher education for the Rohingya if they wish."
- Repatriation and education in home country
Analysts as well as Bangladeshi authorities say the peaceful and dignified repatriation of Rohingya is the best solution to the crisis.
"World leaders should come forward to establish a good university and some standard secondary and higher secondary level of educational institutes in Rakhine state, as nearly 600,000 Rohingya and other communities are still living there," Imtiaz Ahmed, a professor of international relations and director at the Center for Genocide Studies at Dhaka University, told Anadolu Agency.
He said if world leaders are able to compel Naypyidaw to take back its citizens with rights and dignity, the persecuted people would be encouraged to return to their home country of Myanmar.
"It is unexpected that the international community has failed to put due pressure on Myanmar for ensuring higher education facilities for its all citizens without any partiality," Ahmed added.
He said Bangladesh has shown a great example of helping the helpless people of its neighboring country.
"Now the international community should take the responsibility of ensuring higher education for the Rohingya."
Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told local media Saturday that after the acceptance of a resolution on the Rohingya crisis and the peaceful repatriation to their home country by the United Nations, it has been proven that all countries agree on the need for the peaceful repatriation of Rohingya.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency recently, Momen also said that the international community should pressure Myanmar for the peaceful repatriation of Rohingya to their home country and they can mobilize resources to develop facilities in Rakhine state instead of putting pressure on Bangladesh.