IN THE COMPLEX ROHINGYA CRISIS, EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT INVESTMENT SUPPORTED THROUGH UNICEF PROVIDES CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES THE HOPE, FREEDOM AND OPPORTUNITY OF AN EDUCATION
Stories from the Field
Special Contribution by UNICEF Bangladesh
Yasmina is an enthusiastic 10-year-old Rohingya student. She’s different from other girls her age. Not just because she’s dealt with the horrors of fleeing her home in Myanmar and losing her father. And not just because she has an infectious smile and her eyes light up when you call her by name. Yasmina has special needs.
For girls like her, living in the Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Bangladesh, accessing quality education is difficult to say the least. Even harder is finding a qualified teacher that can help her overcome her special needs and find a place to be safe and thrive.
With the support of Education Cannot Wait’s US$3 million First Emergency Response Grant to UNICEF, there is new hope for Yasmina and hundreds more children like her.
Yasmina’s positive demeanor belies the tragedy her family dealt with in Myanmar. Her father was killed in the violence, and her family was forced to abandon their home and seek safety in Bangladesh.
Her mother, Abia Hatan, now takes care of Yasmina and her three siblings in their small shelter in the Kutupalong refugee camp.
Yasmina faces additional challenges in the classroom because she has learning difficulties, physical disabilities and a severe speech impediment. The brave young girl started back to school last year at her nearest learning centre. But she wasn’t attending regularly. In December 2018, with financial support from the Education Cannot Wait First Emergency Response, UNICEF and partners launched a major education drive through the “Back to Learning” campaign. Thousands of community mobilizers encouraged parents and caregivers to send their children to learning centres to receive an education through the new improved structured-learning programme.
The community mobilizers worked closely with parents, teachers and local leaders to encourage students who had dropped out or were not attending regularly to return to the classroom for enhanced learning opportunities.
A widescale assessment was completed for 180,000 children, who were grouped in learning centres according to the results and their competency levels. Yasmina’s mother brought her to the learning centre to undertake the assessment. Yasmina took more time than the other students but she completed the test and was placed in a new learning centre.
As part of the comprehensive education response in Bangladesh, the programme works to ensure that children with disabilities have inclusive access to learning opportunities.
This means that children like Yasmina can be included in the mainstream education programme. Extra training has been provided to teachers to ensure they can successfully integrate children with disabilities into the classroom and actively engage these students in their lessons.
To date, 181 children with disabilities have been enrolled in learning centres through the Education Cannot Wait investment. By the end of 2019, UNICEF aims to include all the children identified with disabilities into learning centres to give them the opportunities they need to flourish.
Yasmina’s mother is extremely proud of her daughter’s progress.
“I can see a big difference in Yasmina over the past few months. She was so happy to receive her first set of school books. She takes them home to study each night. She feels very excited and encouraged to learn,” says Abia, Yasmina’s mother. “I can also see some improvements in her speech. She is growing in confidence and much more content, now that she is going to the learning centre six days a week.”
Working in coordination with the Government of Bangladesh, UNICEF, UNESCO and UNHCR, the Education Cannot Wait-supported multi-year educational response in Bangladesh is mainstreaming and accelerating the impact of the First Emergency Response. Launched last November, the programme is already yielding results.
According to reports from March, UNICEF, through its implementing partner BRAC are supporting the continued operational costs for 189 learning centres, providing salaries for teachers, schools supplies and learning materials, and providing vocational skills training for youth. UNICEF has also developed a learning competencies framework and approach that will guide the delivery of the overall education response, and has trained 59 master teachers to date to improve the skills, responsiveness and quality of teaching. Through improved planning, coordination, and a harmonized approach to professional development for teachers, the programme will roll out a unified curriculum.
From Education Cannot Wait’s initial US$12 million catalytic grant, US$8.4 million is being channelled through UNICEF. The multi-year response is also working with multiple stakeholders to fill the funding gap for the educational response, which has been calculated at US$60 million for 2019 alone.
This systems-wide approach will reach half a million children and youth, and 9800 teachers over the next three years, and bring new light and hope for children caught up in one of the world’s most pressing humanitarian crises.
Education Cannot Wait’s ‘Stories from the Field’ series features the voices of our implementing partners, children, youth and the communities we support. These stories have only been lightly edited to reflect the authentic voice of these frontlines partners on the ground. The views expressed in the Stories from the Field series do not necessarily reflect those of Education Cannot Wait, our Secretariat, donors or UN Member States.