Children not spared trauma of being refugees

Children not spared trauma of being refugees
A Rohingya boy stands in his shelter at a Rohingya refugee camp outside Sittwe March 30, 2014.

SUNGAI PETANI: Every time seven-year-old Isma Tara hears the sound of a siren, she runs and hides as she is afraid of being caught by the authorities.

"Takut, takut (scared, scared)," said the Rohingya refugee who came to Malaysia with her mother two years ago from Sittwe, Rakhine State, Myanmar.

The soft-spoken girl said she would run and hide whenever she saw police cars as well as she still recalled the bitter memories she suffered back home.

"Orang tembak, takut (people shoot, I am afraid)," said Isma at the Baitul Rahmah Rohingya Learning Centre in Taman Sejahtera here.

Her schoolmate Abdullah Abu Kassim, 11, who came to Malaysia alone early last year said he missed his parents and five siblings.

"I took the boat alone. My parents did not know I took the boat.

"I saw some children running, I ran with them and got on the boat and landed somewhere in Thailand.

"I was not scared while on the boat. I was scared in Myanmar.

"I walked in the jungle after that," said the seemingly shy Abdullah.

He was wandering in the jungles near the borders of Perlis with a friend when a resident nearby found and took him in.

They then handed him over to the Malaysian Consultative Council for Islamic Organisation (Mapim) and was taken to Sungai Petani.

He is now cared for by the centre's headmistress Farah Najwa Zainuddin.

Isma and Abdullah are among 82 children, aged between six and 15, studying at the centre funded by Mapim.

It teaches the children subjects such as Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mathematics, Rohingya language, Islamic studies and Arabic.

Farah Najwa, 50, who has been with the centre since it first begun operations in 2013 said: "Some of the children are still traumatised, especially the new arrivals so we console them, tell them that it is safe."

Farah Najwa said the students were taught the basics of reading, writing and counting.

Mapim administration officer Shukri Saari, who is also the centre's secretary, said there were four teachers, including a Rohingya who had been in Malaysia for five years.

The centre was started with only 13 students and focused on helping the children academically and socially.

"We need to help them assimilate themselves into our society here," he said. "They are no longer in Myanmar so they need to learn how to socialise here with the locals."

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