Aizawl, September 3: Around 400 children from Myanmar, who have taken refuge in Mizoram after fleeing a military coup in that country in February last year, have been admitted to different schools across the state, a minister said on Friday.
State education minister Lalchhandama Ralte said the school education department had in end-August directed all district education officers and sub-divisional education officers to take necessary action to admit refugee children from Myanmar in local schools to enable them to continue their schooling.
Thousands of people, including several lawmakers, from Myanmar had fled their country to take shelter in Mizoram in the aftermath of a violent military coup.
The initiative was taken “purely on humanitarian ground” and was based on the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which envisages free education to children aged between 6 and 14 years irrespective of nationality, he said.
“Around 400 children from Myanmar are currently receiving education in both government and private schools in different parts of Mizoram. Although they are yet to be granted a refugee status by the Centre, the government is providing education to them on humanitarian ground as the RTE Act does not discriminate against children on a nationality basis,” Ralte told PTI on Friday.
He said that the state government could not ignore the educational needs of refugee children as they are not only “our fellow humans but also belong to Mizo communities.” The migrant Myanmar children have been enrolled in both government funded schools and privately run schools, he said. When asked, the education minister said arrangement will be made as per necessity and possibility in case the students face inconvenience and language problem in terms of medium of construction in the class rooms.
A circular issued by the school education department on August 31 had requested all district education officers and sub-divisional education officers to arrange admission to migrant/refugee children in their respective jurisdictions so that they can continue their schooling. The circular signed by education department director James Lalrinchhana pointed out that “Chapter 2(4) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 mentions that children aged between 6 and 14 years belonging to disadvantaged communities have the right to be admitted to school in a class appropriate to his or her age. On Tuesday, at least 10 parliamentarians from Myanmar who are currently living as refugees in Aizawl had met the state education minister seeking Mizoram government’s help in providing education to refugee children, an official said.
The education minister assured them of all possible help and said that the government will take measures to ensure that all children from Myanmar currently in Mizoram receive education in the state, the official added.
Meanwhile, a police officer, who refused to be named, told PTI on Friday that as many as 9,455 Myanmar nationals are staying in different parts of Mizoram covering all the 11 districts.
More than 400 children are among the Mynamar nationals, he added.
Quoting records with the state police, he said that east Mizoram’s Champhai district currently has the highest number with 4,488 refugees, followed by Aizawl district with 1,622 and Lawngtlai district with 1,096.
Some 10 more Myanmar nationals have entered Mizoram recently, he said.
C. Lalfamkima, president of Farkawn village council in Champhai district, told PTI over the phone that a number of Myanmar nationals are currently lodged in three makeshift camps set up by local organisations in the district, while some are living with their relatives.
Apart from aid extended by organisations and individuals, the refugees live on self-support, he said.
Though many people have attempted to enter Mizoram on several occasions, they were denied entry by the administration or pushed back by security forces, an official said.
According to Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) president B. Vanlaltana, about 20 parliamentarians are among the Myanmar nationals, who have taken refuge in the state.
Six Mizoram districts – Champhai, Siaha, Lawngtlai, Serchhip, Hnahthial and Saitual – share a 510 km long international border with Myanmar. (PTI)