UNHCR – Training workshops give young Rohingya refugees the opportunity to learn skills and grow

By Linda Muriuki and Regina De La Portilla at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh | May 26, 2022 | francais

A dozen young girls, aged 15 to 24, enthusiastically recite the English alphabet in a bamboo classroom in Kutupalong camp, Cox’s Bazar district, Bangladesh. Then they draw a little bit before a counselor writes on the board advice about menstruation and reproductive health, as well as what to do about issues related to gender-based violence.


The girls are part of one of 70 teen clubs that provide informal education to some 10,000 young Rohingya refugees living in these camps, which are home to nearly a million Rohingya who have fled the violence and persecution in Myanmar.

More than 50% of refugees are in compulsory education, but many have not had access to formal education since their arrival in Bangladesh. Younger children can go to educational centers, but until recently the informal program mainly consisted of learning to read, write and count and was only aimed at children aged 4 to 14 years.

Following approval by the Government of Bangladesh, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, UNICEF and their partners have established a more formal curriculum based on Myanmar’s National Curriculum, which will make it possible to address significant educational gaps, including for older children in the camps.

“If I could continue my studies, I would become a doctor or a teacher. †

By May 1, 10,000 students had switched to Myanmar’s curriculum as part of a pilot project. However, until this new curriculum is fully implemented, most children over the age of 14 will still have limited access to education. Teen clubs are helping to fill that gap for young people like Yeasmine, who had only one year of primary school when she fled Myanmar to Bangladesh with her family in 2012. Now she is 18 years old and has barely studied.

“If I could continue my studies, I would become a doctor or a teacher… But we don’t have these kinds of opportunities”she explains.

“Activities organized by teen clubs are very important for young girls as they teach basic math and reading skills. It also helps them learn about personal health and hygiene, as well as the risks of early marriage.”says Hanisa Akter, Education Officer at UNHCR.

During a five-day visit to Bangladesh this week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees met Filippo Grandi, Yeasmine and other girls from his club to discuss their goals for the future.

He called the implementation of the Myanmar curriculum an important step in improving the living conditions of Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar. “Education is a right for children wherever they are and it is essential if we want to prepare them to return to their country”he declared.

  • Teen clubs like this allow young Rohingya refugees over the age of 14 to attend reading, math and life skills training. © UNHCR/Vincent Tremeau

  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, met a group of young girls attending a teenage girls club.

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, met a group of young girls attending a teenage girls club. © UNHCR/Kamrul Hasan

  • Nazmun Nahar leads a class in the Naf club for teenage girls.

    Nazmun Nahar leads a class in the Naf club for teenage girls. © UNHCR/Vincent Tremeau

  • Until a new curriculum is introduced, most children over the age of 14 in the camps will have limited access to education.

    Until a new curriculum is introduced, most children over the age of 14 in the camps will have limited access to education. © UNHCR/Kamrul Hasan

The High Commissioner also met members of youth groups who have received training on environmental issues from UNHCR and its partner organization, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These young people are now leading efforts to make the camps greener and mobilizing to raise awareness about the impact of the climate crisis.

“We are witnessing climate change every day”underlines Mohammed Rofique, 18, who is part of one of these five groups. “Last year we experienced extreme weather conditions during the monsoon. Most of the shelters in the lower areas were flooded and we had to rescue many people. †

His group focuses on improving waste management in the camp as part of its flood mitigation resources. “People used to throw garbage everywhere”he says. “The waste blocked the water pipes, so when it rained there was flooding and the waste spread around the camp. †

In addition to making bamboo trays and distributing them in the camp, the young volunteers are raising awareness among their communities about the importance of preserving the environment and the wildlife that roam the camps from the nearby forest.

Filippo Grandi welcomed the development of projects that enable young people in the camps to acquire skills and feel useful.

“Education and skills development are essential for refugees to rebuild their lives once the conditions are right for successful return and reintegration in Myanmar”he concluded.

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