Closure of schools sparks concern in Nauru

Asylum seekers express concerns over closure of the schools in Nauru detention centre

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Officials from the Australian immigration department have been notified of the closure of schools in a Nauru detention centre despite protests by asylum seekers on Monday.

Refugee children will be dispersed across  local schools in Nauru despite the objections of students’ parents to the government's plan, claiming that there is no child protection protocols in the schools.

All child asylum seekers whose ages vary from seven to 17 are planning to be sent to the Yaren primary school, Nauru primary school, Nauru college and Nauru secondary school. Children under seven-years-old child will stay with their families in the centre.

After the officials from the camp announced that the school in the Regional Processing Centre 1 were closed, asylum seekers from the camp started to protest, with some of the them, including five-year-old children, attempting suicide.

“We all boys from secondary class made in the school … we plained that we are all going to protest without eating and without going to RPC 3. We all ask that we speak with immigration, but immigration didn’t care about us,” said a five years old child in a letter which is obtained by the Guardian.

“I was so upset at that moment, and I was nervous so I drunk cleaning liquid. After that IHMS and mental health came immediately. But I told them that I didn’t like to take treatment.”

The child stopped to resist and accepted treatment in the end, continuing to express concerns over the closure of the school.

“If nothing happen on Monday again I will do something, because I don’t care about my life.”

Former Save the Children’s caseworker, Viktoria Vibhakar, corroborated with the asylum seeker’s demands not to send their children to local schools in Nauru, saying that the schools are still  applying corporal punishment to discipline the children, adding that asylum seeker children can be beaten with wooden sticks.

Social workers started to help children in the local schools to get used to the new conditions regarding linguistic and cultural differences.   

Older refugee students are also trying to help the new classmates to get rid of their stress depending on environmental alteration.  

"I know how it feels because I came from Sudan and I want to help the little kids understand more," a refugee student from the school said.

The parents of the asylum seekers were not satisfied with the situation in the schools. While some of them were complaining about the safety in the schools, others were concerned about the negative conditions such as the lack of water in the bathroom.

“Dirty, not safe. Toilet not flush. Dirty, no water, no paper,” said one of the parents in broken English right after they saw the local schools.   

The local schools in the Nauru are also well known with the low quality of the education and limited English of its teachers.

Additionally, truancy rates are also very high in Nauru schools, at around 60 percent for children aged over 15.

The Immigration department and Save the Children will cooperate for the transition of the students to reduce the risk of trauma.  

“Integration of asylum seeker children into local schools is consistent with both open centre processing arrangements and education opportunities already accessed by refugee children in Nauru,” a spokeswoman for the immigration department said.

“Transition planning is underway between the respective governments. There are no imminent plans to close the RPC school,” she added.

The spokeswoman refused to answer a question about whether the department would protect children from the corporal punishment during their education in the schools.

“School governance arrangements are a matter for the government of Nauru,” she said.

TRTWorld and agencies