DUBAI, 24th March, 2019 (WAM) — The seventh annual Global Education and Skills Forum, GESF 2019, a Varkey Foundation initiative, opened in Dubai on Saturday with an emotional plea by Rohingyas to support the education of refugee children, whose only hope for the future rests on it.
Addressing the audience, Ahmed Ullah, organiser of peace rallies and co-writer of ‘I Am Rohingya’ and Zainab Arkani, who runs the world’s first Rohingya school in Canada, said ensuring the education of the children is the only way forward to rebuild their lives.
The Rohingya speakers narrated their backstories of struggle and despair. An emotionally charged Ullah, who spent the first 15 years of his life in a camp, before making his way to Canada, recounted his experience of being physically kicked out of school when he was a child. “We don’t want anything from you – but education for our children; if not, another generation of Rohingyas will be lost,” he said.
Arkani experienced systemic discrimination as a student in Myanmar but went on to complete her undergraduate studies and helped rescued stranded Rohingya at the Thailand-Myanmar border. Today, the Canadian citizen continues doing advocacy and community work for her community. She said, “We have enough sympathy, empathy, and donations. What we need is education and vocational training for Rohingya children. Help us in our efforts to raise the first educated generation from an illiterate people.”
Vikas Pota, Chairman of the Varkey Foundation, addressed the global learning crisis in the light of the recent terrorist incidents and natural disasters. With disruption happening in every field, governments need to go down to the grassroots and change the education system and get every child into schools, he noted. “No education system can outperform the quality of its teachers. Improving learning outcomes is the most important thing we will do, and we can only do that by changing teacher status.”
Asif Saleh, Senior Director – Strategy, Communications and Empowerment at BRAC, said Bangladesh opened doors to over 700,000 Rohingya refugees and provided emergency support. “The greatest challenge now is to ensure children have access to education and skills training or risk losing out a large generation of people.”
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