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Aizawl: Around 400 children of Myanmar nationals who took refuge in Mizoram after fleeing a military coup in the neighbouring country in February last year are currently receiving education in different schools across the state, a minister said on Friday.

Thousands of people, including few lawmakers from Myanmar, had fled their country and took shelter in different parts of Mizoram following the military coup.

State education minister Lalchhandama Ralte said the school education department had in August directed all district education officers and sub-divisional education officers to take necessary action to admit children of migrant or refugee Myanmar nationals in schools to enable them to continue their schooling.

The initiative was taken purely on humanitarian grounds and was based on the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, which envisages free education to children aged between 6 and 14 years irrespective of nationality, he said.

“Around 400 children from Myanmar are currently receiving education in both government and private schools in different parts of Mizoram. Although they are yet to be granted a refugee status by the Centre, the government is providing education to them on humanitarian grounds as the RTE Act does not discriminate against children on a nationality basis,” Ralte said.

He said that the state government could not ignore the educational needs of the children as they are not only “our human fellows but also they belong to Mizo communities.” The migrant Myanmar children are enrolled in government schools and private schools, he said. When asked, the education minister said an arrangement will be made as per necessity and possibility in case the students face inconvenience and language problems in terms of the medium of construction in the classrooms.

A circular issued by the school education department on August 31 had requested all district education officers and sub-divisional education officers to arrange for “admission to migrant/refugee children” in their respective jurisdictions so that they can “continue their schooling.”

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The circular signed by the department director James Lalrinchhana pointed out that “Chapter 2(4) of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009  mentioned that children aged between 6 and 14 years belonging to disadvantaged communities have the right to be admitted to school in a class appropriate to his or her age for completing elementary education.”

On Tuesday, at least 10 parliamentarians from Myanmar currently taking shelter in Mizoram’s capital Aizawl had met with state education minister seeking the Mizoram government’s help to provide education to their children, an official said. The education minister assured them of all possible help and said that the government will take measures to ensure that all the children from Myanmar currently taking shelter in Mizoram receive education in the state, the official said.

Meanwhile, a police officer said on Friday that as many as 9,455 Myanmar nationals are currently taking shelter in different parts of Mizoram covering all 11 districts. More than 400 children are among the Mynamar nationals, he said.

Quoting a record of the state police, he said that east Mizoram’s Champhai district currently is housing the highest number at 4,488, followed by Aizawl district at 1,622 and Lawngtlai district at 1,09610 more Myanmational have entered Mizoram recently, he added.

C. Lalfamkima, president of Farkawn village council in Champhai district, said that a number of Myanmar nationals are currently lodged at three makeshift camps set up by local organisations in the district, while some are living with their relatives. Apart from aids extended by organisations and individuals, the refugees live on self-support, he said.

Though many people have attempted to enter Mizoram on several occasions, they were denied entry by the administration or pushed back by security forces, an official said.

According to Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) president B. Vanlaltana, about 20 parliamentarians are among the Myanmar nationals who have taken refuge in the state.

Six Mizoram districts – Champhai, Siaha, Lawngtlai, Serchhip, Hnahthial and Saitual – share a 510 km long international border with Myanmar.

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