This was originally written by Tanner Smith for Partners Summer of Beautiful publication. Read the full publication at Photo by Chris Norman.

 Hadisa began teaching school when she was 15. That makes her almost a veteran today at age 18.

Her one-room schoolhouse is packed with 34 children and teenagers, ranging in age from 5 to 13 years old. They are eager to learn, proudly carrying their colorful backpacks filled with pencils, composition books, reading texts, and math workbooks. Their blue and maroon uniforms show the world that they belong, that they have somewhere important to be, that they have a future.
These things matter when you’re Rohingya, violently uprooted from your home, and trying to find your way in a new, disorienting country like Bangladesh.

Hadisa is a north star in this mess. Shes a teacher. A guardian. A social worker. An advocate. Often, shes a surrogate mother at least for a few hours each school day, and probably for many hours outside of the classroom, too. Twenty-five percent of the children in her class have lost both parents to the violence perpetrated against the Rohingya in 2017.

So, Hadisa not only teaches math and reading, but resiliency and self-respect. Hadisa, and teachers like her, speak the language of hope. The fact that they exist, that their classrooms create a tiny slice of order out of the daily chaos of a refugee camp, means that a better future is possible. Classrooms like Hadisa’s boldly declare that the lives of these children aren’t going to be wasted in the slums of desperate poverty caused by the horrific consequences of genocide.

 These children are worth the investment, worth teaching, worth loving, worth seeing. Schools are one of the very best ways to turn the tide of hopelessness and poverty in crisis situations like the one unfolding in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. When a humanitarian crisis, like a genocide, happens, the catastrophe escalates quickly and multiple catastrophes converge. Orphaned children and the chaos of resettlement means that children are easy targets for exploitation by predators.

But children who are in school are hard targets because Hadisa’s watchful gaze is always scanning for wolves attempting to victimize her little flock. Look at her eyes. This woman is not to be trifled with. Children are also targets of recruitment by violent extremists, but a child who goes to school has hope and a future. Hope
is the ultimate antidote to the false promises of extremism. Teachers are truly the special forces of the Kingdom of God, and schools are their secret weapon.