Press Release: Webinar on “National Children Day and the Fulfilment of the Rights of Refugee Children”
Sandya Institute, in collaboration with Let’s Read Asia Foundation has successfully held a webinar on Sunday, 19 July 2020 on the rights of refugee children especially in education. The webinar is one of the events for our Literacy Week to commemorate the National Children Day on 23 July. The webinar features three speakers, Ms. Ann Maymann as the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) Indonesia, Mr. Hernowo Poetranto from Save the Children (STC) Indonesia, and Mr. Abdul Samad Haidari, the author of the “Red Ribbon” book. The discussion was moderated by a moderator and attended by around 30 participants from various organisations and institutions.
Ms. Ann Maymann highlighted the status quo of education for refugee children in Indonesia. Aside from the Presidential Regulation No. 125 of 2015 on the Handling of Refugees, she also underlined the Circular from the Ministry of Education in 2019 which allows school age refugee children access to public school. Out of 13,541 refugees in Indonesia as per June 2020, 2,580 refugees are in school age while 577 of them are supposed to be in primary and secondary school.
Refugee children can be enrolled in public schools by the help of UNHCR, IOM and its partners, while some are already enrolled in private schools. Besides, informal education is also provided for refugee children by UNHCR and its partners. During COVID-19, the educational activities for refugee children are also moved online through mobile phones, monitored by volunteer teachers, with further plans of UNHCR to provide additional support for them.
Challenges to ensure the right of refugee children to education still remain. Ms. Ann elaborates that refugees are unable to obtain formal diplomas due to having no citizens identity number. Besides, refugee children are also unable to obtain birth certificates as no comprehensive guideline is provided by the Central Government. The inability of refugee children to understand Bahasa Indonesia also makes them unable to access education in Indonesia.
Ms. Ann underlines the big advocacy point of UNHCR Indonesia, which is to make UNHCR ID cards accepted as personal documents, allowing refugees to have formal educational certificates and other necessary certificates. It is important to give them the opportunity to move forward with their lives since they have missed their crucial years as children because of fleeing their countries.
Mr. Hernowo from Save the Children emphasized on “Program for Refugee”, a programme spearheaded by Save the Children for unaccompanied and separated refugee children in children’s homes, foster care, and semi-independent living since 2018. The program is aimed to improve and strengthen child protection mechanisms, as well as improve psychosocial support and resiliency among refugee and asylum-seekers children. STC has been providing various trainings and supports for unaccompanied children (UACs) in Indonesia through capacity building, social work services, and case management. STC has also initiated the establishment of the Community-Based Child Protection and Joint-Monitoring with stakeholders.
Other than that, STC also conducted a Youth Resilience Program Training, transferable life skills, daily counselling for children, discussion with children, while also offering opportunities to communities who want to voluntarily share their skills to refugee children in children’s homes.
Mr. Abdul Samad, the author of the heartwrenching, eye opening book titled “Red Ribbon” recalled his childhood experience of being in school with no adequate facilities, full of sand and dust, but never outgrows its passion for education. Having grown up in an educated family, he had been exposed to poetries and literatures since his early age, even reciting Rumi’s poetry. His childhood years were shattered by war that forced him and his family to flee to Iran and Pakistan.
He recalled that during his time in Iran, he could not focus on studying as he needed to work all day. The Iranian Government allocated no protection and compassion for the children’s education and he was saddened by it. He also told his experiences of needing to cycle to get to school for 1,5 hours which became even more impossible during the winter. Despite all the hurdles, he persisted, even if that meant reaching the school freezing for having to go through thick snows. He then continued telling his story about having education as a refugee in Pakistan, saying that the Pakistani Government was more concerned on children’s education compared to the Iranian Government.
Mr. Abdul Samad then opened the eyes of the participants by saying that human rights extends beyond race, nationality and any identity or background. Education, as he said, is a basic right as it is the manifestation of the right to be alive. Denying access to education for him equals denying children’s rights to being alive; and education will eventually nurture and empower everyone to be growing in the sense of tolerance and peacebuilding.
The presentation session is then followed by a question and answer session from the participants. One of the participants, who was a refugee studying in a university with a scholarship, asked if the UNHCR could legalize the formal diploma he would receive. Ms. Ann then got in touch with the person to follow up on the matter. The next question was on the significance of the UNHCR card which - for some refugees - as Ms. Ann mentioned could be the only identity card refugees have to prove who they are, while at the same time asserting them protection against detention and refoulement.
The webinar is surely an insightful platform for the participants to again acknowledge the ongoing issue of refugee children’s rights to education; and to understand that the only thing that can relive their missed moments and years of fleeing horrors is to ensure the fulfillment of their rights to education. (DT)