On Monday, 27th June 2022, on the occasion of World Refugee Day, a Webinar was held on “Power of education for better security” with the theme of “Right to Seek Safety”. It was organised by the Centre for Peace and Justice, BRAC University. CPJ has always stood beside the refugees in every way they can.
The webinar was hosted virtually via Facebook live at 4 PM. It started with Nahin Rahman, Communications Specialist, CPJ, BRAC University giving introductions and moderated the whole webinar. Followed by a welcome note from Dr. Dave Dowland, Registrar, BRAC University where he explained the relationship between education and security, also highlighting how we should focus on “working with refugees and not for refugees” and how they have always expressed their longing for education via their writings.
Humayra Tasnim and Md. Wahidul Islam Communications Officer of CPJ showcased CPJ and its activities, especially the Refugee Studies Unit which was established in 2019 along with a ‘satellite’ office in Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar to undertake research, academic, advocacy, and other activities related to Rohingya and host communities through a video presentation. Afterward, Mohammad Azizul Hoque, Research Associate, CPJ gave his remarks on refugee rights and the security agenda in Bangladesh; where he went into further detail using a presentation on how the refugees globally are in desperate need of education and how it will help strengthen the community. He expressed how “investing in education means investing in their future which will help create a better and just society”.
The strong voices from some refugees around the world reminded us why it is necessary to provide education to them as it is the key to strengthening and empowering them. The webinar tried to capture their voices where they talked about their needs for proper education and the importance and unavailability of education for them.
Poya Ghaznawi who is an Afghan refugee in Germany, and also a former lecturer at Zawul University in Afghanistan, shared his experience about how he became a refugee during the Afghanistan war and how only education could empower him to survive under atrocious conditions.
Umme Salma, Rohingya Learner of CPJ shared how refugees are “deprived of education due to systematic marginalisation”. The formal schools for them are not enough and the informal learning centres across multiple camps cover only grade 1-4; among which some were even closed during Covid-19. The teachers also need training and the online education is hard for them to avail as good and comfortable digital set up is rare for them. They need formal education with certificates so that after returning to Myanmar, they can get better jobs and enrollment. She ended her speech with a plea by saying, “We request all the stakeholders, international universities, UN agencies, and donor countries to invest more in education for Rohingya children”.
Abdullah, Rohingya Learner of CPJ spoke in the educational context for Rohingya needs and scopes. He shared how children are not getting the education they need and while there is a lack of learning opportunities for the youth, there is also a lack of progress in the children education research centres. Furthermore, there are almost no skill development training centres available for them. He urged that “there should be scholarship programs for Rohingya youths who have completed their matriculation or secondary education in Myanmar whether through offline or online” and also shares how voiceless they became when speaking up against the atrocities towards them in their own country and so to undertake the responsibility of their country and develop themselves, education is crucial for which they need financial support for more schools and skill diplomat training for youths.
Amina, Rohingya Learner, CPJ spoke for the access to education for Rohingya girls and their challenges and opportunities. She revealed the disparities and barriers Rohingyas, especially girls, faced in Myanmar in their education compared to boys due to gendered social norms and how even their safety at school is questioned. She expresses why secondary and tertiary sector education is not accessible to them whereas, “all Rohingya girls should have the right to access education like other people around the world. There are hundreds of Rohingya women who possess the leadership skills and motivation to pursue further studies but they are unable to translate their skills and passion into reality due to the lack of opportunities within the distressing circumstances”. She continues to explain, “Without education, refugee women and girls are denied the confidence to speak out and contribute to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world. Rohingya girls and women are the ones who will help to foster peace and stability for their future generations”. She ended her speech by asking, “Why can the world not give the rights to higher education to all Rohingya girls and women?” and pledged to allocate more funds for them as the girls need strong and affirmative actions.
Jean- Marie, a refugee learner from Kakuma, Kenya shares how lost he felt when he became a refugee but felt empowered due to education. He says that “Whoever wants to change the community, the only way is through education”. He shared with us his own definition of ‘education’ from his experience as a refugee, “Education is a very useful intangible asset which can help anyone to empower themselves, and it is the only way that can help a refugee gain hope”.
Dr Thomas Arcaro, Professor of Elon University, gave his speech on this day, reminding everyone that education is a basic human right and stating how “education is the immune system of a culture” and why we must continue the advocacy work for the refugees as it is a win-win situation for the whole society.
Haruno Nakashiba, from UNHCR, shed light on the activities of UNHCR in Cox’s Bazar and shared how refugees around the world often take dangerous steps to access education because of how important it is to them. She also said how “failing to provide education will have a lasting effect on society”.
Rebecca Granato from OSUN Hubs Learning Initiatives also gave a presentation on how education links with security and introduced OSUN hubs for connected learning initiatives and higher education programmes for refugees.
Shahariar Sadat, Director, Academic and Legal Empowerment of CPJ gave his speech on the relevance of education and stated how refugees’ voices matter the most when trying to support them effectively and ended the webinar after delivering the vote of thanks to everyone.