Rohingya Peace Institute: Providing Free Education and Upholding the Right to Education for Refugees

Lilianne Fan -International Director of Geutanyoë Foundation- in Rohingya Peace Institute

On 8 July 2016, after 2 years of planning, a group of 5 Rohingya refugee youth living in Malaysia opened a community-based school for refugees called the Rohingya Peace Institute (RPI), in a humble three-room apartment in Selayang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The school is the first established entirely by Rohingya youth that provides Rohingya refugee children with free education with a well-rounded curriculum comprising of English, Malay, Burmese, Mathematics, Science, Religious and Moral Education, Art and Sports. All the teachers are qualified, with several holding Bachelor degrees, and all have a deep passion for teaching.

The founders of the school are all stateless Rohingya refugee youth between the ages of 18 and 26, who were born in Rakhine State, Myanmar and in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh, who believe that education is a fundamental human right and the most important key to empower and equip Rohingya children and youth with the tools they need to live their lives in dignity, to support their own communities, to contribute to society at large and to uphold the human rights of the Rohingya people.

This vision is especially significant for the Rohingya, one of the most persecuted minorities in the world, who have been denied basic human rights in their homeland of Myanmar, including citizenship, access to education and healthcare, access to livelihoods and even freedom of movement. This situation has forced hundreds of thousands to become refugees in neighbouring countries over the past few decades, including Malaysia, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya now reside.

There are currently 10 children (7 girls and 3 boys) between the ages of 4-12 years old and 10 adults who attend the school 6 days a week. 4 more students, all orphans under the age of 10, will join the school in August 2016. RPI hopes to be able to serve up to 20 children in Kuala Lumpur by the end of 2016. 

The youth have already used around MYR 20,000 of their own earnings from part-time work to establish the school, including to pay for rent, provide meals for the students and the five teachers, and to purchase books, furniture, a computer and printer, kitchen utensils and other basic equipment. Now that the youth are fully committed to the school, they are not able to seek work anymore, and so require alternative sources of funding to support the school.

The Geutanyoe Foundation and Advocates for Refugees Singapore have established a partnership with RPI to support them over the next year in curriculum development and teaching skills, organisational strengthening, management, accountability, fundraising, community relations, communications and long-term sustainability.

 

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