CAIRO - Looked down by their neighbors in their homeland and host countries, an educational center has been established in Malaysia to educate Rohingya Muslims and equip them with knowledge and self-belief.
"We came up with the initiative as we felt that the community as a whole had been going through this stigma of being inferior among other communities in Malaysia, Ahmad Azam Ab Rahman, chairman of the Future Global Network (FGN), a Malaysian NGO, told New Straits Times on Tuesday, December 25.
The FGN has established an educational center in Batu Belah to educate Rohingya Muslims living in Malaysia.
"Our aim is to instill confidence in their children through basic education, Ahmad said.
So that they will be able to survive and hold their heads up high when they are equipped to look for a living in the country.
Described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, Bengali-ethnic Muslims, known as Rohingyas, have been facing a catalogue of discrimination in their homeland Burma.
They have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.
The Burmese government as well as the Buddhist majority refuse to recognize the term "Rohingya", referring to them as "Bengalis".
Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims take risky journeys by sea to neighboring Malaysia to flee discrimination in their homeland.
Rights groups have accused the Burmese security forces of killing, raping and arresting Rohingyas after the riots.
Every year, thousands of Muslim Rohingyas flee Myanmar in wooden boats, embarking on a hazardous journey to Thailand or Malaysia in search of a better life.
The UN General Assembly on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution calling on the Burmese government to address reports of human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims.
The resolution expresses particular concern about the situation of the Rohingya minority in Rakhine state, urges the government to take action to bring about an improvement in their situation and to protect all their human rights, including their right to a nationality."
Rohingya students study modern subjects at the center as English, mathematics, arts and science.
"The center operates from 8.30am to 1.30pm from Monday to Friday and after the session ends, the children then attend Islamic religious studies classes at nearby madrasahs, Ahmad said.
Currently, there are 100 Rohingya students aged between five to 17 years are studying at the center.
"Most of the students especially the older ones at first do not even know how to read, write or count in the beginning, Ahmad said.
But now they are able to speak Bahasa Melayu and read English proficiently following classes" he said, referring to the official Malaysian language.
The center is the second of its kind for Rohingya Muslims in Malaysia.
A similar center was earlier established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Permatang Pauh, Penang.Ahmad opines that the education of the Rohingya students will help them easily integrate in their society without fear or prejudice.