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Sep 24th
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Home Our Missions Mission of Education Giving the Refugees Children A Ray of Hope

Giving the Refugees Children A Ray of Hope

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Giving the Refugees Children A Ray of Hope
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Born in Malaysia, these refugee children have birth certificates but are not allowed to have identity cards. They face a tough life from the moment they were born!

However, with education, there will be hope for them. In this respect, UNHCR, Tzu Chi and the refugee community have jointly come together to bring hope to these children with no country...      

Children are our future. Every child should go to school to receive a formal education. However, going to school is just a dream for the children of the Myanmar Rohingya ethnic group. The most important issue for this group is to fill their stomachs. For them, the future is so unpredictable and full of unknowns.

The Myanmar Rohingyas are Muslims, and their children's educational level lags far behind the other refugee groups. NGOs have been concerned about this issue and realized that it is important for both the parents and children to understand that education is their only hope to escape the vicious circle of poverty and illiteracy! 

Under the United Nations' Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951, a refugee is a person who is residing outside the country of his/her nationality due to a well-founded fear of being prosecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. Owing to such fear, he/she is unable or unwilling to avail himself/herself for the protection of the country in which he/she has sought refuge.

Since the 90s, many Myanmar refugees have settled down in Malaysia, the majority of whom are Muslims from the Rohingya ethnic group. Some are already third generation refugees. As their population is large, their chances of being accepted by a third country are relatively slim. The Malaysian government schools do not provide education for their children.

According to Mr. Alan Vernon, Representative of UNHCR (United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees) in Malaysia, there are 31 million refugees worldwide as of 2008. More than 45,000 refugees have been registered in Malaysia and of this, about 13,163 are children. There are 7,253 children from the age of 7 to 17. To-date, only about 800 people have the opportunity to go to school.

UNHCR forms partnership cooperation with governments, regional organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations to help provide solutions to the refugees' plight.

Community-based Literacy & Numeracy Programme (CLNP)
Due to their refugee status, the children, and especially teenage girls because of their culture, normally stay home. And home is usually just a small room or a house shared by several dozens of people.

Teenage boys have to work and share the burden of their fathers to feed their large family. And, to avoid being arrested by the authorities, they live like nomads.

According to UNHCR's survey, most Rohingya children under 10 do not go to school, and some cannot even read the alphabets. Therefore, education is very much needed by the refugees.

UNHCR Tzu Chi Education Centres
Since October 10, 2004, Tzu Chi and UNHCR have been collaborating to care for the refugees. Tzu Chi has been providing monthly free medical service and educational programmes for children seeking refuge in a religious school in Selayang.

On September 19, 2007, UNHCR and Tzu Chi Kuala Lumpur discussed the implementation of the Community-based Literacy & Numeracy Programme (CLNP) for the refugees' children. Funded by the US Embassy in Malaysia, this programme was jointly implemented by Tzu Chi, UNHCR and the refugee communities. It involved the largest educational funding for refugees in the history of UNHCR Malaysia. UNHCR's representative in Malaysia, Mr. Alan Vernon, said that Tzu Chi was selected as an implementing partner because it had carefully identified the refugees' needs and its objectives were in line with UNHCR's.

In order to understand the refugees' needs, Tzu Chi and UNHCR carried out their research on more than ten refugee communities in Klang Valley and Kuala Lumpur since October 2007. They finally chose Kampung Pandan, Taman Teratai, Taman Tasik Tambahan, Taman Tasik Permai and Selayang for the implementation of this programme. With help from the refugee community leaders, they found suitable buildings for the educational centres; and the parents were asked to bear some of the expenses for the utilities. They then recruited suitable teachers within the refugee community and the selected ones were provided training at Harvest Centre Bhd.

Currently, UNHCR is discussing with the Malaysian Ministry of Education about the possibility of allowing the refugees' children to receive formal education in the local schools. Meanwhile, it is hoped that the programme could at least help the children to master the basic reading and writing skills, and to learn basic arithmetic.


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