Bilqis, 10, and her mother walked for 6 days to come to the bank of the Naf river, where they took a boat to cross the border into Bangladesh on September 27, 2017. They arrived at a camp where thousands of people gathered after fleeing the violence.
In the shuffle of the arrival at the camp, Bilqis lost her mother and could be reunited with her only after three days.
For about a month now, Bilqis has been attending a “child-friendly space” (CFS) run by Save the Children with support from UNICEF, where the GPE Secretariat mission met her. These spaces provide girls and boys with a place to play, and to learn about basic health and hygiene in a fun way.
Bilqis wants to go to school and learn to read and write. In the future, she wants be a tailor to make dresses for her friends and herself. But there is no school in the camp.
Bangladesh is stepping up support for refugee children
Bilqis is but one of hundreds of thousands of children in camps who deserve an education. Thankfully, the Government of Bangladesh has decided to take action.
In mid-December, the Ministry of Finance in Bangladesh informed the GPE Secretariat that it decided to allocate US$8.33 million for the education of Rohingya children out of the US$100 million GPE grant it received for the national primary education development program. A national task force of the government has then allowed to provide "informal education" to Rohingya children in their makeshift settlements.
This is a courageous decision and we at the GPE Secretariat welcome the government’s decision to ensure the basic human rights of the children.
GPE helps connect the dots to respond to the emergency
The GPE Secretariat had been exploring ways to support the Rohingya people since early 2016. It held multiple discussions with UNHCR, UNICEF, the World Bank, Education Cannot Wait and other local partners. After the crisis deteriorated in August 2017, Julia Gillard, GPE Board Chair, and Alice Albright, GPE CEO, took every opportunity they had to advocate for the provision of educational support to Rohingya children, including at the sideline of the Board meeting last December.
This reinforced the advocacy efforts of local partners such as UNICEF, UNHCR and Save the Children, who are already providing temporary learning spaces in camps, and those of the World Bank who is the grant agent of the GPE grant in Bangladesh.
Hundreds of thousands of children still need help
In Cox's Bazar, there are now more than 370,000 Rohingya children aged 3 - 17 living in camps and who need educational support. According to the Inter Sector Coordination Group analysis, there are also more than 140,000 Bangladeshi children of the same ages in the host communities. But as of December 3, 2017, only 58,500 children have received support.
More spaces, teachers and learning materials are needed for Rohingya children. The learning curriculum should be reviewed to provide basic language, math and life skills. And more support is needed for children in host communities as well to allow them continue their learning.
The GPE Secretariat will extend its full support to the government of Bangladesh and its partners as they develop a program to utilize the reallocated funds as quickly and efficiently as possible. We will also continue to advocate for more funding for education to ensure all affected children have an opportunity to learn.
From March to December 2018, it is estimated that more than US$31 million is needed to cover the education needs. Let’s make sure we don’t leave these children behind.