FCA and UNICEF’s work with teachers in Myanmar empowers entire community

A woman in a mask gives a backpack to a child outside a school while another child looks on.

Despite the ongoing political tensions and economic hardship in Myanmar, FCA and partners are working with the people of Kachin to strengthen the education system. At the heart of quality education are teachers, who tell us their stories.

THE WORKING CONDITIONS of teachers are the learning conditions of students. That’s a truth that is often forgotten when it comes to supporting access to quality education.

In Myanmar, we partner with local organisations and UNICEF with funding from the Global Partnership for Education to make sure teachers can not only earn enough to support themselves, but also receive career development and training.

When your dream career doesn’t pay

Daw Mar Mar is 21 years old and resides in a foothill village on the road to Ma Dwe Glacier. It is home to a population of approximately 350 people.

She has been a preschool teacher since 2021, following a lifelong desire to teacher young children. During the COVID-19 pandemic, with schools closing, she temporarily worked for her uncle. When they reopened, despite her uncle offering her continued work, she chose to return to teaching, although that would effectively mean taking a large pay cut.

A woman sits on a wooden floor and talks to five children who are lying on the floor
Daw Mar Mar teaching her students

“I don’t mind the low income, I am passionate about our children’s education. Preschool is the beginning of our education. Our village lacked educated people because we had never had preschool. Now we can see an increased number of educated youngsters in our village since preschool started. This is my dream job,” she tells us.

Her friends, by contrast, left the village, in the search of jobs that paid more money. Daw Mar Mar stayed, not just due to her commitment to being teacher, but through practical financial support she received through a programme called the “Ethnic Equality Initiative (EEI)” that FCA supports with UNICEF funding through the Global Partnership for Education.

“I couldn’t leave the village whenever I saw the children. Previously, I was only paid 80,000 kyats (approx. 35 Euro); today, thanks to the EEI, I can earn up to 150,000 kyats (approx. 66 Euro). Though the amount given is not huge, it is sufficient, and I am truly grateful for the support.”

The project offers her the opportunity to participate in preschool teacher training in Bhamo and Putao. She tells us the results in her have been significant. For example, she used to be irritated when children did not always follow every word of her instructions. After training, she realised and accepted that this is normal child behavior.

In July 2022, the GPE project contributed 3,360,000 kyats (approx. 1,400 Euro) to build a new preschool, since the stream next to the village was eroding ground and threatened the building.

“Our old preschool is no longer secure. There aren’t enough shelters, and we’re constantly threatened by livestock and losing our belongings. Furthermore, the stream has collapsed near the school, putting children in danger. Mercifully, we now have a new school which ensures the children’s lives are safeguarded and they can study without disruption. I was concerned even when students went to the restroom, but I now no longer have to worry.”

A row of girls sit on a wooden balcony reading books
A book club started by Daw Mar Mar is popular with village children

Daw Mar Mar even established a small library. In addition to the preschool kids, children from the village are encouraged to participate in the reading club on weekends and are also provided with food.

Teaching is still a low-paid profession in most countries and Daw Mar Mar doesn’t sugar-coat her experience. But with our support, she can pursue her dream as well as help her community.

“People may question whether I am weary of teaching and working even on weekends. Truthfully, I’d say I’m exhausted – I don’t have any spare money. But I’m more concerned about the children who will grow up without proper education. So, I’ve been working hard, and I’ll keep working.”

Enhancing teaching skills

Supporting teachers’ salaries is key for keeping teachers motivated, but it’s not the only factor in developing quality education for all. Teachers need career development and support, if they are to flourish within their jobs.

Amidst the economic downturn, Daw Nu Nu, a 21-year-old teacher from Bum Wa Community School, took responsibility for the basic needs of her household which has 11 family members.

Under the EEI programme, she received monthly assistance money for six months as well as a teacher kit and completed Basic Education Training.

A class of young children pose underneath a shelter - they are all holding backpacks
Schoolchildren showing their new backpacks provided through our programme in Myanmar

The training was developed by the INEE, a network of members from NGOs, UN agencies, donors, governments, academics schools and affected populations.

Daw Nu Nu absorbed learning styles, teaching approaches, and curriculum development so that she could practically apply her knowledge even to her siblings first, and afterward to her students. Students who were previously uninterested in learning were noticeably more motivated to learn.

“I had never heard of INEE before, but now I understand its fundamentals, which are extremely helpful for developing curricula. I can skillfully instruct my students and hinge on their learning ability. It boosted my self-esteem, and I realise the importance of constantly enhancing teaching approaches.”

Over and above that, local partners the Dai Fin Social Work Group, provides students with school supplies. Daw Nu Nu extended the parents’ appreciation for the programme.

“Parents are genuinely grateful for such kinds of support because they are unable to fulfill their children’s requirements due to their own struggles working on farms and odd jobs. It’s a huge relief in these difficult circumstances.”

New Classroom

Daw Wai Wai is a teacher from Chanmyae Mizzayi Nunnery School in Bhamo, and the mother of an 11-year-old daughter. Following the death of her spouse in 2022 she finds herself confronted with the dual burden of assuming family responsibilities and striving for a home income. Those were the hardest times she’s ever had to endure.

But she’s not the only one having a tough time of it – so are a lot of other people in her community. This year with the dramatically increased price of goods, parents are worried as they cannot afford to support their children’s learning journey.

A man and a woman sit next to a table and talk. The man is wearing a mask.
Daw Wai Wai talks to a community volunteer

EEI supported 100,000 kyats per month for teachers’ salaries, provided school supplies, and conducted Basic Education training. Daw Wai Wai found the breadth of the project extremely helpful.

“There are countless benefits from this project. A new classroom was built, and school furniture was purchased as a direct result of the project. The support money eased my hardship somewhat.

But being a part of this training has also helped me grow as a teacher, another accomplishment I’m pleased with. Prior to the training, I was mostly preoccupied with one-way teaching and ignored the needs of my students. I got several new bits of information and insights throughout the programme. Because of the profound impact the training had on my life, I feel compelled to pass on what I’ve learned to other teachers.”

Find out more about our work in Myanmar