Morning Star: Anganwadi closed, refugee girl starts preschool for Rohingya children

With 30 students, the preschool teaches English, Hindi and basic Maths to Rohingya children and also provides breakfast.

There was no government preschool or anganwadi in Kalindi Kunj. (Image Credit: Mizan)There was no government preschool or anganwadi in Kalindi Kunj. (Image Credit: Mizan)

Sheena Sachdeva | February 28, 2024 | 12:38 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Mizan, from the Rohingya refugee colony of Kalindi Kunj, Delhi, has started a makeshift pre-primary school for children aged 3-6 years. “For many years, I used to help the children in the community with their homework and understand the basics. Eventually, I figured that the key problem was the lack of basic conceptual knowledge,” she said. There was no government preschool or anganwadi nearby and children struggled when they joined Class 1.

In November 2023, she started a makeshift preschool within her camp and named it “Morning Star”. A visitor to the camp donated a mat and a blackboard and Mizan was ready to receive her first batch of 30 children. The school now teaches maths, English and Hindi and also provides breakfast.

Of the total refugee population of 46,569 in India, 37% are children and about 28% among them are school-going, between the ages of five and 17 years.

Mizan and her family fled Myanmar in 2012, going first to Bangladesh and then reaching India. Till Class 8, she attended a private school with the support of Zakat Foundation and later, got admitted in Class 10 in 2021 and secured 60%. But due to a fire in the camp, her studies were interrupted. Finally, in 2023, she enrolled in Class 11 in NIOS. She hopes to pursue higher education in social work.

Anganwadi closed

Mizan recalls there being an anganwadi in 2015 which closed in 2017. “Since there has been no major support from teachers in government schools… children are afraid to attend classes and often skip school,” she added. “Through this initiative, they are able to learn the basics as parents neither have education nor awareness about the curriculum.”

rohingya, refugee, current status of rohingya in india, rohingya language, refugees in indiaA Morning Star student (Credit: Mizan)

In October, a foreign volunteer visited the camp. “She donated a mat and a blackboard to the school after she got to know about my plan. In January, she also customised school uniforms for the children with ‘Morning Star’ written on them,” Mizan added.

Two other volunteers from outside the camp come twice or thrice a week to teach, she said. “The classes are held from 10 am to 1 pm with a break in between. English, maths and Hindi are taught for 40 minutes – each through action songs, rhymes and poems,” said Mizan. “We want the children to get a basic understanding of alphabets and words, both in Hindi and English, and addition-subtraction so that they are ready for Class 1.” The break is used to provide breakfast.

“We try to provide bananas, eggs or bread-jam twice or thrice in a week, sometimes more often,” added Mizan. The children pay Rs 100 for registration. Those funds are used to provide breakfast and are all but gone.

The weather is another concern when it comes to an open-air school. “I am looking for funds to rent a place for the preschool and coaching classes,” said a hopeful Mizan.

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