Since arriving to Bangladesh after the August 2017 crisis that forced them to flee their native Myanmar, Rohingya refugees have attempted to rebuild a semblance of normalcy in the squalid camps of Cox’s Bazar District. By 2019, a measure of stability has been achieved, with humanitarian agencies meeting the minimum survival needs of the 700,000 new refugees for food, shelter, water, and basic health care services. In contrast to the improvements in these sectors, refugees’ education needs remain largely unmet. The Government of Bangladesh restricts formal schooling for refugee children and youth; the lack of education has become a major source of concern and despair for refugees. In response, numerous refugee-led networks of community teachers have formed in an attempt to fill the gap in formal education.
A mapping study consisting of survey and interview components was undertaken in March and April 2019 to identify these networks and learn about their role within the refugee community. The networks surveyed comprise 373 teachers educating 9,848 schoolchildren, mainly primary learners but spanning ages 3 to 23. These teachers, many of whom arrived in Bangladesh with significant prior teaching experience, represent a pool of human resources dedicated to improving camp education. They could be engaged by humanitarian agencies working in the education sector to benefit the overall education situation for refugees.
While agencies navigate a highly politicized and complex context throughout each step of camp education planning, community-led education networks operate informally within a comparatively relaxed environment at camp level. While none have formal permission to work, many have received verbal permission from camp government authorities and operate openly. Many utilize the Myanmar government curriculum and state that it is a high priority to continue doing so, viewing adherence to the Myanmar education system as a way to prepare for future repatriation. Few of these education networks have had contact with humanitarian agencies. They are however keen to build external relationships, particularly if doing so enables them to participate in camp education planning and to access resources such as teaching materials, financial support, and teacher training.
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