KUALA LUMPUR: Despite relying entirely on donations from well-wishers, an informal school in Selayang continues to provide education and moral support to more than 150 children of Rohingya refugees at its humble premises every day.
Rafiq Ismail, the principal of the Pelangi Kasih school, praised the volunteers who help him, saying they are so dedicated that they also use the site as a centre to help the needy in the neighbourhood.
“We do food distribution every month for the poor around here,” he told FMT when met at the school.
“We are the only one-stop centre for Rohingya refugees in Klang Valley and we get many people coming here for aid. So we need as much help as we can get.”
Every morning, the children whose families had fled the violence in Myanmar, come to the school to study and play with their friends.
“From 9am to noon we teach them regular academic subjects like Bahasa Malaysia, English and Science, while from 2pm to 6pm we teach them about Islam,” Rafiq, 42, said.
Of the nine teachers there, five teach the academic subjects while four teach Islamic subjects.
The children, who are mostly from around Batu Caves and Selayang, are also provided food during their rest period.
Rafiq, who has been helping Rohingya refugees for over 10 years, said the Batu Caves area is now home to more than 10,000 people from the migrant community.
“Over the past 10 years, I have seen their numbers grow steadily because many of them are able to find work in this area.
“They do a variety of jobs, such as in the wet market, that Malaysians do not fancy,” he said.
Burhanuddin, 27, a student with the International Islamic University (IIUM), helps out at the school by volunteering to teach the children Arabic language and Islamic studies.
The Bangladeshi of Rohingya descent said he comes to the school three times a week to teach the children despite his heavy schedule, which includes doing research in Islamic capital markets at IIUM.
“These students are very intelligent and they are also excited to learn. Their memory power is quite strong too. They now can speak basic Arabic fluently,” he said.
Many Rohingya refugees in Malaysia are United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) cardholders but the government does not recognise the refugee status of the ethnic Rohingya as Malaysia is not a signatory to the (United Nations) 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.
It was recently reported that some 60,000 Rohingya refugees were registered with the UNHCR in Malaysia, with thousands more still undocumented.