Rohingya students barred from attending classes at Sittwe University for ten years are beginning to return to the institution after the Rakhine State Students’ Union advocated for the discriminatory ban to be lifted, a spokesperson for the union has told DVB.
Rohingya students lost their right to attend classes at the university following riots in 2012, henceforth being restricted to attend a limited number of distance learning courses.
Kyaw Naing Htay, a central committee member of the union, said the student body now wished to ensure that all citizens of Rakhine have unfettered access to education.
“Our main purpose is to ensure the right of education is available to all races and religions in Rakhine. Throughout the period of the old policy, Rohingya students expressed their desire to attend classes in person at the university, and they will now be admitted according to the regional government,” he told DVB.
Zaw Min Tun, a Rohingya student, told DVB that the development was a positive step towards building peace and creating harmony in the state, where long-standing tensions remain between ethnicities.
“I am glad to have the opportunity to attend classes at the university after ten years. By studying together, we can create better relations between different races, and create peace,” he said.
Khin Maung Latt, former Hluttaw MP for Rakhine’s Rathedaung and Ponnagyun townships, speculated that the development may have been driven by ulterior considerations.
“This could be a genuine gesture. But, also, this may reflect a compromise between sides due to international pressure. At the moment, both sides [the United League of Arakan and the Burmese military] are attempting to court Rakhine’s Muslim communities for their own advantage,” he said.
Since 2012, Rohingya students have been restricted from studying history, geology, and the Burmese language — a telling list of prohibited subjects. The Rakhine administration had, however, established limited “tutoring centers” in Rohingya villages, according to Rohingya students.
The junta’s Ministry of Education has said that classes at Sittwe University, now nominally open to young Rohingya, will commence on May 12.