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Asylum Seeker children on Nauru abused, sexually harassed at school : former teacher

Sydney Morning Herald article 9 January 2016

Nicole Hasham

A five-year-old asylum seeker was urinated on by a group of Nauruan boys and asylum seeker girls have been sexually harassed at school, a former teacher says, saying many parents are too scared to send their children to school in 2016.
The claims are backed by asylum seeker children who report that Nauruan students threaten them with knives and teachers routinely swear at them. One Iranian boy reported his female Nauruan classmates offered sex for money.
I will not go to school because… the education is really bad, the teachers swear at us and the students hate us 
In one alarming allegation, outlined in an official incident report sighted by Fairfax Media, a group of children were hit with a wooden ruler for being late to an exam.
The Nauru detention centre, as pictured in 2012.
The Nauru detention centre, as pictured in 2012. Photo: Angela Wylie
It has been six months since the Australian government closed the detention centre school and forced child asylum seekers into Nauruan schools, where classes are taught in the Nauruan language and teachers are frequently absent.
A former teacher contracted by the Australian government to teach at the detention centre said that since the change, bullying by students and teachers had become rife, teacher training was poor and the special education needs of asylum seeker and refugee children were not being met.
It meant school attendance among about 70 children languishing at Nauru was low, and not expected to improve this year.
The Badawi family, including eldest sons Ahmed (left) and Mohammad (second from right).
The Badawi family, including eldest sons Ahmed (left) and Mohammad (second from right). Photo: Supplied
"A lot of the Rohingyan girls stopped going because they were constantly being sexually harassed. These are girls that wear hijabs," said the teacher, who remains in close contact with asylum seekers and refugees on the island.
"One little five-year-old boy was surrounded by Nauruan kids and they all urinated on him. There were no consequences, that kind of behaviour was tacitly condoned – that's why [parents] pulled their kids out. Because they felt their kids weren't protected or safe."
Iranian Mohammad Badawi, 14, who has been in detention for more than two years, said he wanted an education but did not attend school because it was "dangerous".
Ahmed and Ali Altabarawi. Their mother did not wish to be identified.
Ahmed and Ali Altabarawi. Their mother did not wish to be identified. Photo: Supplied
"I will not go to school because … the education is really bad, the teachers swear at us and the students hate us," he said in a recording made this week, obtained by Fairfax Media.
In a separate recording made in October last year, Mohammad said he stopped going to school after female students offered him sex.
"One day the Nauruan girls come and told me bad things, like one-dollar-one-hour [for sex]. When I told [a teacher] the [teacher] say 'why didn't you go with them?'," he said.
Other students "bring knives … and they scare us".
Mohammad said security guards at the detention centre had also threatened to hurt him outside the facility, and he was reluctant to leave to attend school.
A young asylum seeker from Iraq, Ahmed Altabarawi, said he did not feel safe outside the detention centre and did not attend school.
"Outside the camp is not good, people are not good guys, they fight … and many dogs bite people," he said in a recording also made in October.
"I don't go to school – school is bad. All the guys fight the Arabic people."
An incident report dated April 2014, sighted by Fairfax Media, details how four asylum seeker children at Nauru College were attacked by a teacher for being late to a maths test.
The report was made to Transfield Services, the Australian government contractor that runs the detention centre that has since changed its name to Broadspectrum.
The students apologised for being late and said they had been getting water. A teacher "proceeded to hit them with a wooden ruler on the shoulders", the report said, adding two of the children began crying and the beating left red marks.
A spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said school governance arrangements were a matter for the Nauruan government and it did not have enough information to comment on the alleged incidents.
The Nauruan government did not respond to request for comment.
A Broadspectrum spokesman said it was not responsible for education services in the Nauruan community.

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