Japanese rock singer urges tuition for refugee children

Japanese rock singer urges tuition for refugee children

Governments should provide education for refugee children as they are the world's future, says Japanese rock guitarist Miyavi.

Speaking at the United Nations Building on Monday as a volunteer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Takamasa Ishihara, better known among his fans as Miyavi, said he was concerned about inadequate education among refugee children and the offspring of displaced people.

"It is scary to let children grow up without education and a philosophy of life," Ishihara said, recounting the time he observed refugee children working on potato fields instead of going to school at a refugee settlement in Lebanon two years ago.

In August last year, he revisited the refugee camp in Lebanon and observed a group of children being picked up in a school van for the first time.

Yet many kids were still left behind, the result of their sad plight.

"The little kids fled from Syria [to Lebanon] and are suffering every day. They do not know an education," he said.

Video by Prangthong Jitcharoenkul

According to the UNHCR, over 65 million people including children have been displaced around the world as a result of conflicts, wars and prosecution, the worst onset of global refugee problems since the end of World War II.

While in Thailand, Ishihara visited temporary border shelters and paid his respects to monks in Kanchanaburi province.

He also plans to play football with children at other temporary shelters before leaving Bangkok later this week, he said.

Ishihara has worked as a volunteer with the UNHCR since 2013, when he played a psychotic prison commander in Unbroken, directed by Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie.

"I was inspired by Angelina who is a UNHCR special envoy and has been helping refugees for years," he said.

The 35-year-old rock icon, who featured in the video The Others last year with refugees from West Africa's Mali, Afghanistan, Jordan, Syria and hill tribes from Thailand, usually takes along his guitar when he visits refugee camps.

"When we play the guitar, the kids are so excited. I see brightness and hope in their eyes. I realised what a strong influence music is and what music can do," Ishihara said.

"Music cannot change the world directly, but music can change people and people can change the world,'' he added.

Visiting the refugees in Lebanon also inspired Ishihara to compose a song called Long Nights.

"Can you imagine these people paid money but had to get on a boat with no food and water, heading nowhere? And when the boat reached shore, they were asked for money.

"It is ridiculous. So, when they could not pay, they had to go away and find another country," Ishihara said, adding he and his band planned to write a song involving displaced people in Thailand.

Ishihara works in the music and fashion industry in the United States, where he says conflicts among the people at large are growing.

"Some people [in the US] say it is time for war, but it is not. This is the time to build bridges among people," he said.

''Understanding and sharing are the keys to making it happen," he added.

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