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Giving Rohingya children a taste of school life

The Rohingya Education Centre in Batu Belah, Klang, where 260 children receive basic education from a group of volunteers. – The Malaysian Insider pic, May 24, 2015.

By Diyana Ibrahim
May 24, 2015

At a nondescript shoplot in Batu Belah, Klang, children of the most prosecuted people on earth are getting a shot at a life free of the violence, fear and hunger that had become routine for their parents.

On the outside, the premises looks like it houses an ordinary Muslim school, but the children who go there are all Rohingya refugees, a community that is being forcibly thrown out of their homes and murdered in Rakhine, Myanmar.

The 260 children who attend the Rohingya Education Centre in Batu Belah, Klang, are given a formal education and are taught Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mathematics and Science in the morning. Like their local peers, these children also go for religious classes in the evening.

The youngest at the school is six years old while the oldest 16, but instead of grouping them based on their age, the children are taught according to their ability, Rosma Tazila, one of the centre’s full time teachers, said.

The centre has 11 full time teachers including herself, all of whom have dedicated their lives to helping the refugee children get a formal education and a leg up in life.

The school is being run by Muslim groups Wadah Pencerdasan Umat (Wadah), Persatuan Jaringan Islam Global Masa Depan (FGN) and the Muslim Youth Movement (Abim).

The groups work closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and have so far opened three centres. The first was in Taman Arowana, Permatang Pauh, Penang in July 2010.

The Klang centre was started in 2012 and has seven classrooms.

The UN and world human rights groups consider the Rohingya the most vulnerable and persecuted community in the world.

There are about 30,000 Rohingya refugees registered with the UNHCR, 8,000 of them are children.

Although the centre lacks many of the comforts of normal schools, Rosma said her kids were passionate about learning.

Some of the centre’s students have even scored high enough grades to qualify them for vocational colleges.

FGN education project director Nur Azalina Abdul Aziz said although refugee children were not allowed to take public school exams such as the UPSR and PT3, they can still sit for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM).

This year, she said, three Rohingya children who had sat for the SPM managed to score high marks and secure scholarships from the Al-Bukhary Foundation to further their studies at Universiti Malaya and Lim Kok Wing University.

Others students have received funding from the Selangor Islamic Council (Mais) to pursue courses in automotive maintenance.

“In the past, we struggled to get their parents to send these kids to school as they would rather their children worked.

“We only had 80 kids but now we are teaching 260 children. Their parents can see the positive changes in their kids. As they are more disciplined and they can read and write,” said Nur Azalina.

Besides the RECs, there is also another school for Rohingyas in Pahang which is being funded by the Al-Bukhary Foundation.

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Rohingya Exodus