They don’t have desks or chairs. But in a bamboo-built room decorated with posters and paintings, 30 Rohingya teenage girls are learning. They sit on the ground writing intently into their workbooks, as a mathematics formula is posted on a blackboard.

Shehana, a bright but shy 16-year-old, is one of the girls studying at the Diamond Adolescent Club, in Kutupalong settlement, Bangladesh. It was set up by a UNHCR partner nearly two years ago

“Back in Myanmar, I was in grade 6. I wanted to be a teacher and to go to college. I love teaching. And I’m happy to be here,” Shehana says.

“We learn new things almost every day. I think I’m lucky, but I try to tell others why education is important and to convince them to let girls study – how it can help with better opportunities in the future.”

“Some of our relatives have listened to me and they now send their daughters to school.”


Shehana, 16, is on the of lucky few girls who are able to continue their education in Bangladesh thanks to support from UNHCR. © UNHCR / C. Gluck 

Shehana is one of the lucky ones. Few girls are able to continue their studies once they reach adolescence.

In the crowded settlements of Cox’s Bazar, more than 500,000 Rohingya children and youth need access to education. But only a small number of temporary learning centres provide any opportunities at all for children over 15.

It’s clear where Shehana’s passion for education comes from. Her father, Nur Alam, 43, was a former senior teacher at a school of around 450 pupils in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

When the family fled violence in Myanmar two years ago and arrived in Bangladesh, Nur Alam volunteered to teach youngsters at a mosque set up in the settlement.

“I feel like crying when I see this,” he says while showing a photo of his former students. “I miss my students very much.”

“Many of my old students who completed grade 6 are in the camp here. Many have positions as volunteers working with organisations in the camp… when they see me, they greet me.”


Teenagers answer questions at the Diamond Adolescent Club, Kutupalong refugee settlement, Bangladesh. © UNHCR/C. Gluck

“They tell me that because they listened and learned, it helped them get these opportunities and they are better off now.”

Children all over the world need great teachers, but refugees need them all the more. For these children, teachers are not just tutors but mentors, motivators, protectors and champions.

World Teachers’ Day on 5 October celebrates the work of teachers and their contributions to society. It also serves as an important reminder that every child has the right to an education – a right that cannot be fulfilled without qualified teachers.

UNHCR is working to improve the quality of teaching and learning for Rohingya children in Cox's Bazar. Over the past two years, UNHCR has built 1,602 learning spaces and deployed 1,251 trained teachers.

But more help is urgently needed. Over 96 per cent of Rohingya refugees between 15 and 24-years-old are not attending any educational facilities.

You can help ensure these children can learn again, providing hope and a lifetime of opportunity.

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Education empowers refugee children by giving them the knowledge and skills to live productive, fulfilling and independent lives. © UNHCR/C. Gluck

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