The Chakma Education Support Project
The Chakma Education Support Project aims to provide quality education to Chakma children in Arunachal Pradesh, India. The right to education is recognised as a fundamental human right in international conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Yet for Chakma children, access to this right has been continually hindered due to political conflict between the Chakmas and the Indian state government. The Chakma diaspora have been present in Arunachal Pradesh since the 1960s, after religious persecution forced them to flee from the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The Indian state, however, has been failed to solve the issue of citizenship for the Chakma people. This in turn has meant that Chakma children have continuously been deprived of their right to education.
Our Work With SNEHA
In order to tackle this problem, in 2017 Human Asia partnered with SNEHA, a local non-profit organisation founded to provide educational opportunities for Chakma children. The main goal of our education support project is for the children to have access to quality education. In addition to providing after-school classes for the children, we also train teachers, helping them become better equipped to create child-friendly schools. We promote quality education by advocating learning through active participation. We also focus on improving the children’s’ learning environment through establishing a Rights-Based Approach (RBA) within the schools.
In order to integrate these processes into the current learning environment, Human Asia and SNEHA first designed a special after-school class, which could be incorporated into regular classes later after being assessed and evaluated. The two main focal points here were language literacy and human rights sensitivity. From 2017 to 2018, we carried out 40 after-school classes for 36 students, where students could practice their English reading and speaking skills. We also conducted teacher empowerment workshops for 30 teachers and staff working in SNEHA schools. Throughout the seven sessions, the teachers gained valuable skills and insight on how to make a child-friendly school. In 2019, we plan to open English and human rights classes for 62 students, along with a child-friendly school workshop for 48 teachers and school staff.
What is a Child-Friendly School?
All children have the right to be educated. A child-friendly school, however, recognises a diverse range of children’s rights, including: the rights to express their views; to play; to participate in decision-making; and to be healthy and protected.
Who are the Chakmas?
The Chakma people are an ethnic group who originally made up half of the population within the Chittagong Hill Tracts, most of which are located in Bangladesh. With the Kaptai Dam Project in the early 1960s, the Chakma people lost their lands to development. They were not entitled to any rehabilitation or compensation. The Chakmas, who are typically Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, or Animist, further faced religious persecution in the Muslim dominated region. In 1964, the Indian government under Jawaharlal Nehru allowed for some of the Chakmas to stay in Arunachal Pradesh (then the North-East Frontier Agency). Today, the Chakma diaspora are distributed throughout Bangladesh; parts of north-eastern India, western Myanmar, and several other countries including South Korea.
As the Chakma people in Arunachal Pradesh have been living in India without citizenship since 1964, in 2015 the Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas filed a petition to the Supreme Court of India, requesting that the Arunachal Pradesh state government grant citizenship to the Chakma people. Although the Supreme Court subsequently ordered that Indian citizenship be granted to Chakmas, the Arunachal Pradesh state government refused to implement these demands. They claimed that this would be an infringement upon the constitutional protection of tribal states, which includes Arunachal Pradesh.
Conflict between indigenous groups and Chakmas has further meant that the Chakma people face discrimination in many aspects of their lives. They are therefore often deprived of their economic, educational, and cultural rights. In 2017, for instance, four Chakma medical students were denied admission by the Mizoram state government, who succumbed to pressure from a student body.
The endless problems facing the Chakma people in 2019 remain equally as severe as in the past. Yet until a resolution granting Chakma people citizenship is undertaken, the Chakma people will continue to suffer from human rights violations and discrimination.