GENEVA - A study by the U.N. Children's Fund finds more than half a million Rohingya refugee children in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar are not learning the life skills they need to prepare them for the future or to protect them from present-day abuse and exploitation.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children have been languishing in squalid, overcrowded refugee camps in Cox's Bazar for two years - ever since a mass exodus of 745,000 refugees fleeing persecution and violence in Myanmar began.
The U.N. Children's Fund reports more than a quarter million children up to age 14 are receiving a non-formal education, while more than 25,000 others are receiving none.
Author of the UNICEF report, Simon Ingram, said adolescents are most disadvantaged.
He said 97 percent of children aged 15 to 18 years are not attending any type of educational facility, putting them at particular risk.
"When you meet teenagers in the camps, they speak readily of the dangers they face, especially at night, when drug dealers operate, and gang fights are reported to be a regular occurrence," he said. "Cases of trafficking are also being reported, although they are hard to quantify. The camps can be especially hazardous for girls and women."
UNICEF and partners have provided learning to more than 190,000 Rohingya children in more than 2,000 centers. These agencies are calling on the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to allow the use of their national educational resources to provide more structured learning for Rohingya children.
Ingram told VOA that UNICEF is appealing to Myanmar authorities to provide education to the children in the refugee camps. Until now, he said, the children have been taught in the Burmese language by volunteer teachers from the refugee population.
"And, with the best will in the world, that is not the same as having a properly trained teacher, someone who has experience of delivering the Myanmar government's own curriculum. So, that is really what we are looking for and those are the conversations that are now ongoing with the government in Myanmar and we hope that we will receive a positive response to that," said Ingram.
Ingram said it is critical for refugee children to be taught in Burmese as that is the language they will need if and when they return back to Myanmar. Unfortunately, he notes Rohingya adolescents will continue to live in limbo until it is safe for them to go home. He acknowledged that going home does not appear to be a realistic possibility for the foreseeable future.