Kenny Hendero Yudo, APMA 2020, Indonesia

Everyone can agree that education is a necessary step in every child’s development. It is one of our first experiences in getting to know more and more about the world around us. Not only does it affect our worldview, but it is also essential in our day to day life like basic mathematics and reading skills. Yet despite everyone, especially children, having a right to education as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), there are still children who do not receive even primary education.

This is especially true with refugee children such as the Rohingya. As the children do not receive the education, one can say that their development is effectively stunted as education help provide a number of things to children especially to refugees. Getting education would help refugee children feel a sense of normality, which will then assist them in integrating with society. This is not to mention the benefits education has on children’s mental wellbeing if they have gone through traumatic experiences. Education also becomes key when it also gives people access to higher-level jobs and hence can be a way to upgrade their state of living.

A community with educated people is able to better the lives of those around them, whether it is solving the problems that occur or trying to finding ways mobilize everyone and even just being able to better understand their neighbours and be more emphatic. Taking away the right to education is essentially depriving children the opportunity to learn about things that are more than just surroundings and community, which is vital in order to grow up to a sensible adult. However, access to education does not seem to extend to certain groups of people such as the Rohingyas refugees in Malaysia.

This challenge can be resolved, however, if Malaysia is willing to divert their resources to provide a school for refugee children, or even to simply allow them to also attend public schools. As it stands, the Malaysian government do not provide access to both healthcare and education to the Rohingya refugees. While the Malaysian government seemed sympathetic to their troubles, they do not seem to go beyond sympathies and do not provide the Rohingya refugee children the services they lack and need. This is especially true in terms of education, an issue not really discussed in mainstream Malaysian politics.

Currently, the only education that Rohingya children get is provided by non-government organizations and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. While this looks good, there are more children than these institutions can handle. In addition, most of them only provide elementary education. They are also somewhat lacking in facilities and learning tools as, for the most part, they do not receive support from the government other than permission to set up educational institutes.

It is for that reason that it becomes important for the Malaysian government to recognize the importance of education especially for refugee children. One way this can be brought about is if Malaysia signs the 1951 Refugee Rights Convention, which will then obligate them to come up with policies that help the refugees living in Malaysia instead of them being largely ignored and not being provided access to facilities. It is also the duty of the Malaysian government as a member of the UN to provide these refugees with access to education.

*The contents of this opinion piece are solely those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the view of the either Global Campus of Human Rights Asia Pacific, the universities under it, or the APMA program.

Photo from Al-Jazeera.

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