IPOH: The elders of a small Rohingya community here are forced to tighten their belts most days just to ensure their children are not denied basic education.
Rohingya Society in Malaysia (Ipoh Branch) chairman Mohd Hassan Miya Huson said in May 2015, together with 10 others from the community here, they collected RM700 each to set up a school which they named Darul Hedayah Rohingya Academy.
The desire to set up such a school in Perak, to cater for more than 50 children from the community aged five onwards, was first discussed in 2013 as the education system in Malaysia does not accept refugee children in public schools, he said.
“We understand this because Malaysia is not a signatory of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, so we cannot expect the schools here to open their doors.
“Year after year we were trying to find a way (to enrol their children in schools) and finally in 2015 we conceded that the only way was to set up one (school) of our own. So we passed the hat around collected RM7,700 to rent a shop premise. It was not easy for us,“ he told Bernama, here recently.
Relating further, Mohd Hassan said the RM700 collected from each member may seem like a small amount to many, but not to the members of the community, who work at the wholesale market here for a RM25 daily wage.
“It is a hard life for us but we have no choice as this is for the future of our children. It may seem trivial now if they are denied formal education, but what about the future? “ Mohd Hassan, who hails from the restive Rakhine region in Myanmar, and who has been in Ipoh for 12 years now, said.
The school, which operates from a two-storey shoplot in Jalan Lahat, currently has 42 students aged between four and 12 and four volunteer teachers, besides getting some help from several Non-governmental Organisations and the private sector.
Malay Language, English, Mathematics, Science and Quranic studies are the subjects taught, he said.
Volunteer, Hasnizah Jalaluddin, 57, said as a retired teacher, she knows how education is vital for the young, but acknowledged that teaching the Rohingya children brought about a different kind of challenge.
“We use simple language and (learning) methods as there are various age backgrounds all following the lessons in one class. They all have different ways of absorbing the lessons and and this is where we (teachers) have to adapt,“ the former teacher of Sekolah Kebangsaan Jelapang, said.
Eleven-year-old Faruk Abdul Rasid, whose favourite subject is English and who wants to be a policeman one day, said it was fun going to school and learning new things everyday.
Asked on why he wants to be a policeman, Faruk replied: “I want to save my family in Myanmar, I’ve seen my grandfather’s house burning,“ the second of six siblings said.
For Mohd Miran Abdul Razak, 12, who was born in Penang, said school was an exciting place to be at, as besides getting to play with his schoolmates, he has the chance to improve his reading and writing.
“The teachers here are very nice,“ Mohd Miran, who is also looking forward to the upcoming Aidilfitri celebrations, said. — Bernama