Forum: Education builds dreams, but not necessarily for refugees

Written by Gerrit Hansen / Herald Forum

In October, I was part of a multinational team of monitors for relief work with Rohingya refugees in Malaysia.

Experts disagree about the origin of the Rohingya, a people who have lived in Myanmar for generations but have never been granted citizenship. They are a community without a state. When the Myanmar government began to cleanse their country of them, the Rohingya fled in many directions. Some have reached Malaysia. There, too, they have no citizenship, cannot attend school, and cannot obtain work visas, and so depend on relief efforts by the United Nations and other NGOs.

During my visit, I heard the following address from a 15-year-old teenager:

“My name is MJ, and I am 15 years old. Today, I would like to give my opinion on the phrase “With education, the world is your oyster.” It means that once we get a good education, all the opportunities of life will be available to us, and we can achieve anything within human reach.

While education may open up opportunities such as having a better chance at securing prestigious jobs or establishing connections with influential people, unfortunately, this does not apply in every case. Hence, I do not agree with the premise. In my experience, there are many other factors that limit a person’s opportunities, not just a lack of education.

Some of these factors may be race, skin, gender, physical abilities, wealth and legal systems. For example, a person who lacks legal identity documents cannot travel abroad freely and legally. In this case, the scientist cannot, quite literally, be that person’s oyster.

Most people are not immune from state laws. Hence, having a good education does not allow a person to challenge the legal systems. For example, the persecution of the Rohingya has caused us to flee to other countries in dangerous, difficult, even life-threatening… and illegal ways. In fact, we are denied the right to life, and this has nothing to do with whether we are educated or not.

“An individual’s opportunities may also be limited by discrimination. No one can magically change another’s mind. If an influential person is prejudiced against you, most of your efforts to achieve a goal can be in vain because that person has the power to make life decisions for you.” .imagine you put a lot of effort into making a dream come true but it all goes in vain because of someone’s biased judgment of you .in malaysia refugees are considered as lower class of people because we are foreigners .therefore the jobs available to us are manual jobs or labor intensive jobs Even those with a higher education are unable to obtain decent ‘work’ either because of discrimination or anti-immigrant labor laws.

In conclusion, I do not believe that education is the only key to the door to endless dreams. Many other factors may limit one’s opportunities. We are told that everyone is born equal, but the truth is that many are treated unequally because of things over which they have no control. Unless there is true equality, access to education alone cannot unlock all life opportunities. Thank you very much for your time and attention.”

MJ’s personal aspirations are to have a good impact on oppressed minority communities, spread positivity, and inspire others to do the same. He hopes that one day he will be able to go abroad, become a computer programmer or perhaps an electrical engineer. He hopes to secure permanent status in Malaysia, but would prefer moving to South Korea or Japan because of their declining population, or a country in Europe with an established sponsorship of refugees.

Gerrit Hansen is an Everett native who lived 26 years in Indonesia before moving back to the US in 2016. He now lives in Lynnwood.

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