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Only eight percent of displaced Muslim children in western Burma’s Arakan State have access to secondary education, according to a senior education coordinator.
While the figure is up slightly from seven percent earlier this year, education provided to internally displaced persons (IDPs) remains minimal and informal.
“At the moment, the majority of children are receiving just two hours of emergency education a day, which is [Burmese] language and mathematics. The teachers are not certified or recognised,” said Arlo Kitchingman, who works for Save the Children and serves as Burma’s “education cluster coordinator”.
As such, he oversees international organisations that implement emergency education programmes in Arakan and other conflict-affected areas.
A Strategic Response Plan produced by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in 2013 estimated that 17,500 out of 23,500 primary-aged Muslim IDPs could regularly access education, but the new figures indicate that once they reach the 11-17 age bracket those numbers tend to nosedive.
In contrast, access for non-Muslim children in the same age bracket is “much higher”, but remains “quite low” in comparison to other parts of Burma.The level of education reaching the camps is extremely basic, said Kitchingman, with few teachers who volunteer at temporary learning places set up inside the camps.
Another shadow looming over the state’s education providers is whether the curriculum will be recognised by government schools in the event that IDPs can leave the camps and return home.
“We’re still not sure whether — if the situation changed — whether the learning taking place, which is actually minimal… would be recognised in government schools,” said Kitchingman.
Emergency education providers plan to expand the current curriculum to include subjects that mirror the government’s and to boost the quality of education.