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Indonesia to place Rohingya children in boarding schools

By Ainur Rohmah
May 28, 2015

Around 200 Rohingya children - many of whom lost parents at sea at the hands of people traffickers - to be placed in Muslim boarding schools.

JAKARTA -- Indonesia says it plans to place more than 200 Rohingya children - many of whom have lost parents at sea at the hands of people traffickers - in Muslim boarding schools in order for them to obtain education and enable their recovery.

Minister of Religious Affairs Lukman Hakim Saifuddin told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday that the schools are ready and waiting for the children - many of whom are suffering malnutrition and unable to read and write.

"[The schools] are especially for those who separated from their parents or even lost parents because of death," said Saifuddin in Wonosobo, Central Java.

"They are entitled to a good education and we should help them," he added.

The children are among thousands of migrants who began beaching on Indonesian and Malaysian shores after Thailand launched a crackdown on human trafficking in its southern region May 1.

The three countries responded by initially taking in some of the boats, before their navies began turning the vessels back to sea after providing them with food and water – drawing the criticism of rights groups.

However, Malaysia and Indonesia agreed last week to shelter the Rohingya on board – many of whom faced persecution in Myanmar – for one year, while repatriating the Bangladeshis.

Of the children in Indonesia entitled to places in the schools, one Rohingya orphan - Jamal Husein - told Jawa Pos newspaper on Wednesday how his family were killed on a boat during a fight between Rohingya and Bangladeshis.

The eight-year-old said that it occurred as passengers succumbed to hunger, and started to brawl because their supplies were almost used up.

"The Bangladeshis asked food from us, but they were disappointed as we refused," he said. 

"Then fighting broke out, in which dozens of people lost their lives."

Husein said he could only hide on the boat, crying as he clutched his three-year-old sister, Rizuana.

Together they watched his father, mother, and two brothers being butchered.

"They beat my father with a wooden club and knife. My mother and my brothers tried to save him but were killed too. After my family died, they [the Bangladeshis] threw their bodies into the sea," Husein said.

He said that they were poor families from Myanmar, heading to Malaysia in the hope of changing their fortunes.

"I do not know where to go next. I have no relatives here," he told Jawa Pos .

Minister of Social Affairs, Khofifah Indar Parawansa, has said that of the 1039 Rohingya migrants sheltering in Indonesia, around 230 are children -- many of them orphans like Husein.

According to, Parawansa said Wednesday that a number of boarding houses from several regions in Indonesia had offered to look after them for a year until the Government determines its follow-up policy towards refugees.

An executive member of Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, told Anadolu Agency Wednesday that he was thoroughly in support of the plan to educate the children, saying that conditions in boarding schools were much better than in the shelters where they were presently being housed.

Masdar Farid Mas'udi said that as well as giving them an education the schools would give them emotional strength, mentor them and contribute towards their religious education.

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