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The 14-year-old refugee journalist

24 October 2023, Impact of Our Work

A big dream undeterred by hardship

The world’s people need to know all about us. Because we are refugees … And if the international community won’t be there for us ... We have no other option to survive. We have to die. We have to die in this camp. That’s why we need news reporter(s).


A scary arrival

When Tomal* arrived at Cox’s Bazar refugee camp, he remembers feeling afraid of the elephants and the huge jungle surrounding the camp. He had fled Myanmar with his parents, siblings, and grandparents. The family arrived at the camp not having eaten anything for days, with only the clothes they were wearing and leaving all of their belongings behind. His uncle had travelled to the camp before the rest of the family and had built a small house for Tomal’s family to live in when they first came to the camp.

These days Tomal lives with his grandparents as he thinks the education quality in their part of the camp is better than in the area where his parents live. For Tomal, education is vitally important. Both of his uncles went to university and had achieved degrees. The teenager has big dreams of focusing on his education and one day becoming a journalist. But he realises that living in the camp and continuing his education is going to be incredibly difficult.

Tomal plays a game with his friends in the Child Friendly Space.

The moment that changed Tomal’s life

In his early days in the camp, Tomal was struggling to find things to do and was often resorting to just playing in the dirt. One day on the suggestion of a friend, Tomal decided to check out the Child Friendly Space run by Save the Children and was excited to discover he could finally access educational resources again. The 14-year-old was so hungry for knowledge that he started to devour as much reading as he could wherever he could find it. Discovering the Save the Children Child Friendly Space made a huge difference in Tomal’s new life. Child Friendly Spaces are possible because of the immense support of Save the Children donors.

Tomal diligently reads whatever he can find. He trawls through newspaper clippings and copies out the words including those in English. It has been through reading these pieces that Tomal has learned about what is happening in the camp including children being kidnapped, the continuing situation in Tomal’s homeland, and events occurring around the world. Through the Child Friendly Space Tomal has learned about child rights, child marriage, as well as learning life skills. But such is Tomal’s hunger to learn and be successful that he longs for more.

“Children of my age must have some knowledge and idea to improve the society. If they have so, it will improve more. Beside that if children can get an education, society will be better. The more they will receive education the more improved the society will be.”  says Tomal.

The truth about life in the camp

Children like Tomar have access to some forms of education services but these are extremely limited in the Cox’s Bazar camps. Currently there are learning centers being run by NGOs like Save the Children providing a Myanmar Curriculum which matches what the students would have been learning in their home country. But a lack of resources, including qualified teachers, means that the options are limited.

Tomal reads newspapers at his shelter.

Tomal’s hopes for his life

For Tomal nothing will squash his determination and ambitions. He remains optimistic about his future and is not deterred by the seemingly overwhelming obstacles limiting his education and future prospects. Tomal refuses to be deterred and has big dreams for his life.

“I want my life to be beautiful. If you ask me why and how: Education is needed to be a news reporter. To become an Engineer education is needed as well. Like that to become a speaker education is needed. To become a professor education is needed. Education is needed for different reasons. I want to become a news reporter when I grow up. It is needed for us and … society.”

*Name have been changed to protect identity.

Photos: Allison Joyce/Save the Children.

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