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Joyous Raya celebration for Rohingya kids

The pupils of Baitul Rahmah Rohingya Learning Centre yearn for their favourite Burmese food. Pic by Sharul Hafiz Zam

By Jasmime Kaur
July 30, 2014

SUNGAI PETANI: For many Rohingya refugee children, who are studying at the Baitul Rahmah Rohingya Learning Centre here, celebrating Hari Raya in Malaysia is better than what they had experienced in Myanmar.

Although many of the 60 children, aged 6 to 13, are marking their first Hari Raya in this country, they are happy with the festivities here.

Head school prefect, Jaber Shamsul, 12, said Hari Raya in Myanmar was no joy as the stateless Rohingyas refugees were never allowed to go anywhere during the festive season.

“We couldn’t visit our friends or neighbours as we were not allowed to go to other camps. We all lived in different refugee camps. Here, there is a lot of excitement and anticipation for the festive season.

“I only miss the festive food, especially dishes like ‘kao se’ and ‘la ba to’,” said Jaber.

Kao se is a noodle dish while la ba to is a special dish with lots of nuts.

Enamul Hassan, 12, said he has been in Malaysia for two years now. His father works as a labourer and they live in Kampung Lebai Man.

“I love Hari Raya because of the delicious food I get to eat, including fried chicken and meehoon. In Myanmar, shops are closed and there is no merriment at all,” he said.

Mohd Salim, 12, said he was craving for his favourite Burmese dish called ‘fulu semi’, a concoction of vermicelli cooked with raisins and milk.

Salim said he started fasting for Ramadan when he was nine.

The refugee children’s responses to questions were translated by their language teacher, Kamal Shafie, 29, a Rohingya who has been in Malaysia for four years.

Kamal teaches the children the Rohingya Language, English and Arabic.

According to Baitul Rahmah Rohingya Learning Centre director Masadah Sajadi, the centre was set up in July last year.

“It was a mosque that had been left vacant after a new mosque was built nearby. Many of the pupils here are lagging behind with their studies due to their difficult life and we teach them the basics and give them a good foundation to start.

“Although we charge a nominal school fee, many parents are too poor to pay as many are jobless or they work as labourers. So we have to waive the fees in some cases.

“The school is funded by the Malaysian Consultative Council for Islamic Organisation. We teach them subjects like Mathematics, English, Bahasa Malaysia, Rohingya language, Pendidikan Islam, Al Quran and Arabic. We also teach them art and physical education,” said Masadah.

He added that the school was preparing a special Hari Raya feast for the pupils.

“Some corporate sponsors have come forward to give them Hari Raya clothes. We hope someone can sponsor a special Burmese treat for these kids,” she added.

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