Education matters: Refugee youth dream of a better life through school

At first glance, Aziza and Nawaz are like any other teenager in school, anxious about exams but hopeful about the possibilities that education holds for their future.

But unlike most other teenagers, 13-year-old Aziza and 15-year-old Nawaz are refugees whose families have fled persecution and complex human rights violations in their home countries.

They attend the Buddhist Tzu Chi Learning Center, an informal learning center in Kuala Lumpur. The organization is run by the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation (TCF), an NGO partner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The two friends are in the 6th grade of primary school. Aziza, a Rohingya refugee from Myanmar, speaks passionately about his plans to achieve his ambitions.

“I want to be an engineer when I grow up.” Many girls my age have no choice but to stay at home and take care of their younger brothers and help with the household finances, but my father insisted that I study to the highest level possible. ” she said.

For Nawaz, a Pakistani refugee, his hopes are in the sky.

“I want to be a pilot when I grow up, and getting a good education is the way to achieve that,” he said.

Nawaz missed several years of schooling when he was young to migrate.

“I wasn’t able to go to school until I was 10 years old. Before that, my father had to teach me. My father emphasized that education was very important, and I That’s right. I had to study very hard to catch up with my friends, but now I’m happy to be able to advance to the sixth grade.”

Their challenges in accessing education are unfortunately all too familiar to many refugee children. Refugee children’s education is often disrupted as they are forced to flee their homes and find their way back to their families in countries of protection, but their perceptions vary. .

In countries like Malaysia, where refugees have no legal status, the situation is complicated. Currently, approximately 185,760 refugees are registered with UNHCR in Malaysia. Refugee children have no access to national education systems, forcing UNHCR, its NGO partners, and the refugee communities themselves to support them in parallel.

There are approximately 150 community learning centers for refugees across Malaysia, but many have limited funding and struggle with limited resources and crowded classrooms. Other challenges include high teacher turnover, students dropping out for economic or cultural reasons, and limited opportunities for higher education.

UNHCR works with NGOs and communities to strengthen the access, quality and sustainability of non-formal education for young refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia.

Leena Muthusamy is a teacher at the Buddhist Tzu Chi Learning Center. “Many of our students come from diverse backgrounds and have suffered the trauma and hardship of being from refugee and displaced families. It is important that children attend school consistently because education is a chance for refugee children to change their destiny.”

Her colleague Ng Shu Jing, who has been a teacher at the Buddhist Tzu Chi Learning Center for the past seven years, is equally convinced of the impact of education in the lives of refugee children.

“It is my desire to ensure that students always have access to education, because education is important for their future and the lives of those around them,” Ng said.

“Thanks to the support provided by UNHCR and donors, students have access to excellent learning materials and qualified and trained teachers for quality education.”

Thanks to these learning centers, young refugees like Aziza and Nawaz have a real chance to break the cycle of displacement and poverty. This is not an option for most young refugees.

Aziza feels lucky that her family prioritized her education and ensured a better future for herself.

“I will always be grateful for this opportunity to study and stay in school. I will never take this for granted,” Aziza added.

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