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My Higher Education in Sittway University (Part-1)

(Photo: Adam Jones)

By Ro Mayyu Ali
RB Article
September 13, 2016

My Higher Education in Sittway University (Part-1)

Parents were cheerful. Siblings were proud. Friends were joyful and neighbors were pleased. All the teachers as well were glad with us because only we 8, out of 236 students, had passed the matriculation examination in the 2008 academic year in the Basic Education High School in Kyein Chaung Village. The school, situated in northern 24-miles away from Maungdaw Township. My eldest brother living abroad, really proud of my success, encouraged me to continue my study and promised that he would give me all the allowances when I go to study higher education in Sittway University, situated in Sittway City, Rakhine State, Myanmar.

I’m from a less-afforded family who lives from hand to mouth. My father is a fisherman, an anchor for us. So, for me, my eldest brother is the only one who can provide for me the means of higher education if my fortune sees the bound. So, being the second ranked matriculated student as well as being the only one with an English major as a specialization subject for the academic program made me celebrated in our school. Perhaps, I was too delighted to be. Everyone was enthralling. A new academic year of 2009 was knocking. Then, it was the time to prepare towards heading to it.

First of all, I had to apply for a White Card because without it, no Rohingya, even a student, is allowed to move from one place to another. For that regard, I had to take the following recommendations;

(1) A Village Authorization Form, locally called Ywa Twar Hla Mat (that should have an attached photo of the holder certified that the one is going to the downtown area. (Administration Office Clerk charges 1000 kyats for it + a copy of passport sized photo costs 200 kyats).

(2) A recommendation letter (It certifies that the holder is a resident of the relevant village and his or her character is good as well. (Village Administrator charges 2000 kyats for it.)

(3) Two copies (It costs 100 kyats per page.) and the original of my family list together.

On next day of 14th of November, 2008 at 7:45 am, I was in a Jeep car heading towards downtown in the Maungdaw Township. It was my second trip downtown. In our area, riding in a car is like frog-dancing that makes all the passengers easily tired and sleepy, but not my sharp mind. Hours later, the car stopped and the conductor sounded us to get off. When I looked up, I realized it was in front of Border Immigration Head Quarter in Kyi Kan Pyin. No sooner I got out of the car I remembered the word of in-charge Nasaka (an immigration personal) in that check point when I was going to sit for my matric exam in Maungdaw High School. “I’m not your class teacher. Why do you provide me your student ID?” he shouted me when I gave him mine. He asked for my White Card but he forgot my age and that was not eligible to hold it. However, I fortunately got on again though I saw myself through some extortions at the check point.

Almost 3 hours later, the car reached downtown. Getting out of the car, I went directly to the Township Immigration Office with my file to apply before having my lunch. By the time I entered the office, a staff said to me that the Immigration Officer had gone to Sittway and that I had to go back. Indeed, it’s my common fate as a Rohingya in Northern Rakhine State!

A couple of weeks later, I went to there again. I received a White Card to apply for my higher education costing 19500 kyats. On the same day, thinking myself that everything was ready enough, I was submitting my file to go study in Sittway University. Then my file was rejected as my name had different spellings between my family list and what was listed in school. No wonder! It’s a common discrepancy that Immigration personals misspelled whilst writing our name in family lists. That is most likely the bane of our student life when we go to the Immigration Office with our files. When I asked what I had to do, the recipient advised me to have another recommendation from the Village Administrator regarding the issue. So, I had to go back again to take it.

I explained everything to Village Administrator and he gave me a recommendation and certified that the holder is the same person even though he has two different names in the different lists. Then, I was confident that there were no more flaws in my file. Finally I submitted my application. Even though it had to cost more money as a student to submit a file, it seemed like things were going easily. I came to realize that I was going to see Sittway University very soon. Then, I felt I would become like a prince who would enjoy studying in Sittway University. Just a dream! What a joy it was!

For me, everything seemed quite simple and possible. All University students were preparing to leave. My elder sister invited me for a special dinner because I was leaving soon and she gave me some pocket money too. Then all students from our village fixed the 26th of December, 2008 to leave together. Everything was readily packed up and prepared.

It was the 24th of December, 2008. A man came to my home in the early morning and told us that there was a call for my father from Saudi Arabia. Hearing the man, I felt myself that I was in a paradise thinking my eldest brother was going to inform my father about my money to go to Sittway. “Mom, I’m really proud of my eldest”, I surprised my mom hugging suddenly. Then, my father and I went together with a great pleasure. It was the first time that I have ever walked in front of my father with a blooming smile. However, when my father held the call, it was a friend of my eldest brother in Saudi Arabia. He said that my brother was arrested and detained last night by Police. My father was shocked. Then, I was broken. He hugged and encouraged me that I might go anyway to study. It was my tear in the middle of the joy! However, my hope had the same acceleration. 

In the evening of the same day, one of my friends came to inform me that my file was launched and the clerk of Immigration Office was asking about me. My mother shared with him what had happened. When the fixed day came, everyone left to University. I however, remained in my home and my file was in the Immigration Office. I understood that my brother was still detained. My siblings whose hearts were more broken than me as I couldn’t go to study. My first year was gone. My first hope was lost.

So, my parents started to convince me that I was going to join in next academic year. I therefore, came to realize that the release of my brother was more important than my dream. I was praying for his release. My family was trying to find the resources to educate me. We sharpened the blade of our hope again for next academic year.

However, my fate is that the time passed by so fast. 2010, a new academic year was quickly coming up. My brother had not yet been released. I could not find another source to go to study. The second year was also over. My second hope for the same thing was lost too.

Two academic years were already passed. Then, I had to turn my hope back to the release of my eldest brother. On the other hand, for two years I had taught a private English class for Grade-10 students in my village and I could save some money that was quite enough to live for one month in Sittway City. Then, my mind was finally made up to join University of Distance Education in Sittway University. By the help of a friend, I had a contact with a clerk who makes doing everything for Distance Students in Sittway University if she gets money. I was transferred and enrolled in it, costing more than 50000 kyats. Then, she sent all text books and assignment papers to me. So, I started my self-study reading my texts and assignment at home.

It was 12th of October, 2011. Everything was again packed up and I was leaving. Although it was the procedure for us to go to Sittway University were the same as before. Aziz (one of my friends, also going to attend Distance University) and I went to Immigration Office in downtown and received our files that included the following documents;

(1) A Form-4 certified that the holder is a resident of the relevant village, going to cross over township. (It costs 3000 kyats including the costs of photos.)

(2) The approval of Township Immigration Office. (Immigration Office clerk charges 1500 kyats per a student.)

(3) The approval of District Immigration Office (No charge for it)

(4) The approval of State Immigration Office (No charge for it)

(5) The approval of Township Administration Office (No charge for it)

(6) Ten copies of Form-4, to give in every check points on the way. (It costs total 1000 kyats as 100 kyats per page.)

After lunch, we were heading by car to Buthidaung Township. While we were in the car, we both poor, were brain-storming about the extortion of the NASAKA at the 3-Mile check point. Aziz is a relative of U Aung Myo Myint, a Parliament Member of Rakhine State in 2010. “U Aung Myo Myint told me that he has already been made aware of every check points and not to ask for money from students.”, he encouraged me and I was a bit relieved.

When we were in there, we had to get out to be checked. Before signing the the original of our Form-4, the in-charge Nasaka of check point asked for 1000 kyats per one. We handed two copies. So, we looked at one another. “This is check point, not Parliament”, the in-charge NASAKA fired us when Aziz tried to explain him. Then we had to pay 2000 kyats.

It was 5:35 pm when we reached Buthidaung's downtown. We decided to stay the night in Ko Kyaw Gyi Guesthouse. After showering, we had our dinner in a restaurant. We then telephoned Mostafa Kamaal (a friend from our village in Sittway City) to pick up us from the Sittway jetty where we would reach the next evening. When we tried to go to bed, we found that the beds were set up from East to West that is forbidden for us in Islam to sleep. We both thought then to turn the beds to the right way ourselves. “Aziz, how about NASAKA in jetty”, I asked him. He was silent for a while. So, I had to make him shaking his body when his mood was melt down. We justly prepared and planned something. It was an exciting moment. The night was so long. Suddenly, we both sank into sleep.

When the day broke, we woke up and quickly prepared ourselves after performing our prayers. Then, we had our breakfast. We took a packet of fried sticky-rice (Shwe Tamin) and purchased two tickets for the slow boat as the price of 3500 kyats per one. We were in limited expenditure then as we were heading towards the boat. Soon, we were in line. We saw that some were under checking up and some were not. We both were only those whom were asking for 1000 kyats per one among the group of around a hundred. It was my talk against extortion in jetty of Buthidaung!

I (A Rohingya) : “Why do I need to pay money?”

A Nasaka : “You don’t know. We are Nasaka!”

I (A Rohingya) : “Why do we only two need to pay when all the others don’t?”

A Nasaka: “Because they are Taiyinthar (indigenous) and you both are Kalars (illegal immigrants), understand?”

No sooner than Nasaka’s finger touched my face than the bell of boat suddenly rang up for passengers to get on then we had to pay 1000 kyats per each for the Buthidaung jetty too. It was the boat, Danyawaddy-7 that we were on. By the time the boat started, all people on the jetty were waving their hands to the boat. We both were those poor two in the boat whose parents were not able to wave their hands to us. It was a time of double-wounds for our young innocent hearts, indeed.

Our seats were in the middle and we put down our bodies. I had the Philosophy that however we have tried and whatever we have planned for, it was nothing better than useless in front of those merciless Nasakas. It is like asking for pity from chicken to a hungry fox. Suddenly, a mixed laughter of passengers made me wake up. It was a joking dialogue of a Myanmar film that made them laugh on the boat. Then, I looked at the face of my friend and joined in the end of their laughter. And soon, we had our lunch on boat.

It was 4:45 pm when we reached to the jetty in Sittway. We were looking for Mostafa Kamaal whom we had requested to pick up us from jetty. We saw that he was waiting for us in gateway where there is another Nasaka check point and we waved our hands at him. “We are going to get off first because we both are new and we’ll have more things to do”, Aziz, my clever friend reminded me. We both got off first and handed some copies and the original of our travel authorization of form-4 to in-charge of Nasaka in check point. He took it and kept it in his hand without signing the original. “I’m responsible for this check point”, the Nasaka replied Mostafa Kamaal when he tried to introduce us to the Nasaka saying that we both were students. We had to wait in there for more than 15 minutes until all were others were gone. We saw ourselves that all people were passing over check point even without even being checked. We both were made to wait for a signature in form-4 despite checking everything of us from A-to-Z. Finally, we had it without extortion as it is the jetty of Sittway.

Then, we got on a taxi heading to Mow Lai Quarter in Sittway. At 5:15 pm, we reached the lodging of Payami then we got off. We had rooms on the ground floor as the upstairs was full. It was later than 5:30 pm that we were readily set up with our materials in our room. So, we have planned to go to the Immigration Office the next day in order to have our arrival approval in Sittway. Then, we took our shower and had our dinner in a nearby restaurant, Old Lady’s Restaurant by the local name. It was a very exciting day for us. As we got tired and weary, we went early to our bad. For sure, it was the first night for us in Sittway City.


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Rohingya Exodus