Negotiating an 'Inclusive' Space in an 'Emergency' Situation: Non-formal Education for Rohingya Refugee Children in Bangladesh
Half of all Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children who are not allowed to receive a formal education in public institutions, even though education is one of the fundamental rights of all children, regardless of their social status. In coordination with the government of Bangladesh, UNICEF, and Save the Children International have been conducting a non-formal educational programme for the children of Rohingya refugees since 2017. Domestic partner NGOs implement the initiative. The purpose of this study is to examine the policy and the infrastructural arrangements for its implementation process and determine how these may influence the inclusion of Rohingya children in the education system. We carried out a qualitative study in the Ukhiya and Teknaf sub-districts of Cox’s Bazar. Between August 2020 and January 2021, we conducted 30 in-depth interviews with Rohingya parents and children, teachers, government officials, a UNICEF representative, and NGO employees, as well as gathered materials from various secondary sources. We find the programme has set up a veritable infrastructure. Through discussion, dialogue, and resilience, the local and global NGOs and the Rohingya have negotiated with the government an 'inclusive' space for the expansion of the educational sphere, although more needs to be done to ensure inclusive education in a current emergency situation. The preliminary overview and analysis of the programme, including the gathered evidence, help to understand the challenges that countries like Bangladesh face in addressing the educational inclusion of refugee children in South Asian settings. Policymakers should use the empirical results to develop inclusive and reflective educational policies for refugee children.