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New Delhi: The Mizoram government, in a letter written on August 31, has directed education officers across the state to admit children of Myanmar refugees to state-run schools in order for them to continue their schooling, according to the Hindustan Times.
The letter, signed by James Lalrinchhana, director of the Directorate of School Education, cited the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act) to affirm that “children between the ages of 6-14 belonging to disadvantaged communities have the right to be admitted to school in a class appropriate to his or her age for completing elementary schooling,” an Indian Express report said.
The letter was sent to all district education officers and sub-divisional education officers, requesting them to take action on the admission of migrant and refugee children to schools under their respective jurisdictions.
While the letter makes no specific mention to Myanmar nationals, school education minister Lalchhandama Ralte, speaking to Hindustan Times noted that the circular was largely meant for children who had been forced to flee to Mizoram after the military coup in Myanmar in March of this year. He went on to note that these children will be admitted to state-run schools in September itself.
Speaking to the Indian Express, Lalrinchhana noted that the order applies to migrant children from any nation and that, “As long as they are on Indian soil, it is our responsibility to take care of them, they cannot miss out on education so crucial to their development.”
Government records place the number of refugees who crossed the border from Myanmar into Mizoram at 9,450, scattered across ten of the state’s districts. The border-sharing district of Champai currently harbours the largest number of refugees – 4,488 – followed by the state’s capital, Aizawl, with 1,622, the Indian Express report stated.
The refugees, mostly from Myanmar’s Chin province, were forced to flee after the country’s military junta staged a coup in February, overthrowing the elected, Aung San Suu Kyi-led government. Several political leaders were also placed under house arrest.
In light of this influx of refugees, the Union government had in March ordered borders to be closed to Myanmar nationals attempting to enter India. However, the Mizoram National Front (MNF) leader and the state’s chief minister, Zoramthanga, had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 18, refusing to comply with these directions, stating, “India cannot turn a blind eye to this humanitarian crisis unfolding right in front of us in our own backyard.”
Zoramthanga also cited the ethnic ties which Mizos share with members of the Chin community, calling them their “Mizo brethren” and noting that, “Mizoram cannot just remain indifferent to their suffering”.