Close to 400 children from Myanmar enter India daily for studying in Mizoram’s schools
When unrest broke out in Myanmar following the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and imposition of the junta rule, many Myanmarese who were pro-democracy and fleeing the junta entered India’s Mizoram to flee persecution.
The state which shares a 400-km border with Myanmar allowed many refugees to enter and the people in the adjoining villages even provided them with warm food, shelter and clothes.
The Myanmar’s children are also enrolled in these schools. Mizoram towards the end of 2021 instructed all district education officers to admit the children of Myanmar refugees in state-run schools on humanitarian grounds.
“There are nearly 400 children of Myanmar refugees who fall in the age group of six to 14 years. Most of them are in Champhai and Aizawl districts. They will be admitted to government schools,” Mizoram education minister Lalchhandama Ralte told the Hindustan Times highlighting the large number of children from Myanmar who entered India with their parents to flee persecution.
The state also took a proactive role in tutoring children who were still living in Myanmar in the villages along the border.
Champai district is also among those where schools are providing free education to Myanmar’s children to ensure they do not miss out on learning. More than 300 to 500 children cross the border to enter Mizoram to attend schools everyday, a separate report by the Hindustan Times said.
A Myanmarese woman speaking to HT said the unrest in the country led to closure of schools putting children at risk. She said she doesn’t want her daughter to miss out on school due to the unrest.
“I didn’t want my daughter to miss out on her education, I got her admitted at St Joseph’s School in Zokhawthar,” the woman was quoted as saying by news agency HT.
Mizoram Police allow the children to enter the state
They man the border checkposts and keep the iron gate on the border open from 7am to 9 am as students from Myanmar’s Khawmawi and other adjoining areas enter the state to attend schools.
The journey takes close to half an hour.
Police officials told Hindustan Times that on some days the number of students who cross the border to attend schools crosses 500. These students are enrolled in nine government and private schools in Zokhawthar.
They share classrooms not only with Indian students but also with those who have fled persecution of the Myanmar’s junta with their parents.
In 2021, when the Centre asked the Mizoram government to stop the flow of Myanmar’s immigrants the state wrote back to the state urging them to not turn a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis and understand the deep ties between Myanmar’s Chin people and Mizoram’s Mizos.
“I understand that there are certain foreign policy issues where India needs to proceed cautiously. However, we can’t ignore this humanitarian crisis. Mizoram cannot just remain indifferent to their sufferings. India cannot turn a blind eye to this humanitarian crisis unfolding right in front of us in our own backyard,” Zoramthanga, Mizoram chief minister, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March 2021, shortly after the unrest began and refugees started entering Mizoram, HT reported.
His letter was in response to a letter where Centre told the state of Mizoram to not accept refugees. India is not signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol. It does not have a national refugee protection framework but in many cases has provided help to refugees from Myanmar and Afghanistan.