Rohingya arrive in Phang Nga
In May 2015, a group of 51 Rohingya women and children arrived in the Khao Lak area of Southern Thailand after fleeing ethnic persecution in Burma. Separated from their husbands and fathers, who were sent to detention centres, they were placed in a shelter run by the Thai government. Since that time, FED has been working with the shelter to offer services for the women and children while they await resettlement.
Compared to other Burmese migrants, the Rohingya are in a particularly vulnerable position: in addition to the high levels of poverty in Burma and the human rights abuses they suffer in their native region of Rakhine, most Rohingya people also only speak their local languages. As a result, when they flee to neighbouring countries they cannot even integrate with the other migrants, and certainly not with their hosts.
Soon after their arrival in the shelter, FED arranged to enrol the Rohingya children at the Unified Learning Centre, our elementary school for Burmese migrants. Many of the children had never attended school before and we were excited to offer them the opportunity, however a number of challenges became clear almost immediately. First of all, because of their lack of education, many of the Rohingya children were at an academic level far below other students of the same age. We were faced with the difficult decision of where to place the students; would it be better to have them in classrooms that matched their skills, or would the embarrassment of working with much younger students negatively affect their ability to learn? More importantly, except for English class all of the courses are taught in Burmese, which most of the children do not speak.