Wed 21 Dec 2005
Filed under: News,On The Border
New Delhi: The United Nations agency for refugee aid has complimented Thailand for its plans to provide broadbased educational facilities to Myanmarese living in nine refugee camps.
“We are delighted”, UNHCR said and described the Thai government plan as an engightend decision. Over 140,000 refugees from Myanmar are housed in the camps that have come up along the border on the Thai side.
The offer of educational service will make ‘ a real and substantial difference’ to tens of thousands of refugees who are ‘desperate’ to broaden their educational opportunities, Hasim Utkan, the regional representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said.
Under the new initiative, which followed discussions with UNHCR over the past few months, the Thai office of the Non-formal Education Commission will provide teachers of Thai, English and occupational skills. It will also supply computers, textbooks, televisions and other educational materials.
The programme is expected to start in the New Year. The present outlay is $225,000. Another $500,000 will be needed to make the programme effective, UNHCR estimates showed.
Until now, some 45,000 refugee children have been taught a limited curriculum by volunteer refugee teachers and non-governmental organizations working with very few resources in schools built out of bamboo thatch. Schooling ended after Grade 10.
Refugee opportunities for further education without Thai language skills were extremely limited, UNHCR explained, leaving many refugee children without higher educational prospects and little to do in the camps. Vocational training was also restricted to activities such as candle- and soap-making, weaving, sewing and agricultural projects.
Currently, refugees are not allowed to work in Thailand but a relaxation of the policy is possible with reports saying that Bangkok was reconsidering the existing policy.