In Myanmar, cash helps children, teachers and parents restart education
Myanmar is reeling from multiple shocks, including the COVID-19 pandemic, political turmoil and civil conflict. That’s meant many are missing out on their right to education.
IN CHIN STATE, schools forced to close due to the pandemic remained shut due to the ongoing conflict. On top of that, economic hardship meant parents couldn’t afford to send their children to the few schools that reopened. In addition, many teachers couldn’t afford to teach.
FCA works in Myanmar focusing on education, which includes providing cash support to families and teachers. Below a schoolchild, a teacher and a father explain the impact that has had.
Len Kheng finally returns to school
12-year-old Len Kheng lives in the East Ward of Kanpetlet, Chin State. The family’s third daughter, Len Kheng’s enrollment in kindergarten was delayed until she turned 6 in 2018.
But two years after starting her education journey, schools in Myanmar had to close due to the Covid-19 outbreak. That meant Len Kheng had to return home and help out on her parent’s farm, where the family grew elephant foot yam as their main source of income.
She patiently waited for schools to reopen, hoping to continue her studies. In 2021, a group of parents and teachers attempted to establish a school nearby, allowing children to resume their education.
Unfortunately, Len Kheng’s family’s financial situation prevented her from going back to school. The pandemic froze the market for yam and led to financial struggles for her family. The ongoing political turmoil further dashed her hopes of returning to school.
“At the time I thought, ‘I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to school in this lifetime. I suppose I’ll have to make a living farming like my parents,'” she tells us.
FCA gave her family unconditional cash support and Len Kheng was able to go back to school. Her family received a total of 180,000 kyats (approximately 69.07 Euro), which not only helped with their financial problems but also enabled her to continue her studies at a community-based school. Despite being in a grade level that does not correspond to her age, she is currently learning alongside her classmates and embracing the opportunity for a promising educational future.
“I no longer feel left behind, because I can focus on my schoolwork without the need to help out on the farm. I am thankful to the people who have helped me return to the classroom by providing essential school supplies.”
A father with dreams for his son
Msang Thang is the father of Mg Kui Thang, a grade 6 student, residing in Makuiimnu village, Chin State. Although he and his family survive through traditional farming, he does not want his son to engage in the laborious practice.
He has always hoped to send his son to college and provide him with everything he needs for a comfortable life. Like many parents in the Chin community, he has high expectations for his son.
Just like for Len Kheng, the pandemic brought a major setback for Msang Thang’s ambitions for his son through a complete-total school closure, which was extended due to the countrywide conflict.
By 2022, the community had taken the initiative and established a school. But after two years away from school, Mg Kui Thang was reluctant to return and the family lacked the funds to pay for school fees and other learning materials.
Although Msang Thang took on additional work to earn money and, through encouragement and persistence, finally convinced his son to return, he still lacked adequate funds for the boy to enrol.
In 2023, his entire community received aid from FCA through unconditional cash assistance to parents, learning materials to students, and teacher stipends. Msang Thang received a total of 60,000 kyats (approximately 23.02 Euro) for his family, enough to continue supporting his son’s education.
“I hope this kind of assistance can be extended to other places in Chin State. There are many parents out there who are just like me, I believe.”
A committed teacher
Hmuchingding Government Basic High School is located in Shin Pawng village which is an underdeveloped and rural neighborhood of Kanpetlet Township, Chin State.
Mr. Khyumsi, 53, is a senior assistant teacher, enjoying nurturing future generations and helping them adapt to a changing world. His commitment to school and community events is unparalleled in his community, and he dedicates himself to collaborating with fellow teachers to foster the intellectual development of the local youth.
The school closures hit him hard – he didn’t have a job or any paycheck for three years. However, his main concern is the long-term impact on children’s education. The emergence of a new generation that has not been exposed to education will have terrible consequences, he tells us, especially for the ethnic minority community.
Reopening the school for the children became his constant goal. He consulted with church pastors, fellow schoolteachers, the leaders of the village and parents, advocating for them to take charge and run the school on their own. They all share his perspective. However, there are still challenges regarding teachers’ salaries. Nevertheless, they successfully reopened the school in 2022 through a small teacher stipend contribution from the local church and the community, with just a handful of students. Mr. Khyumsi was appointed as the headmaster.
In 2023, FCA provided funding for teacher stipends which amount to 140,000 kyats (approximately 53.72 Euro) for 3 months, as well as a total of 291 student learning kits. This support allowed more children than last year to return to classrooms. Mr Khyumsi’s plans don’t stop there – it would be great if teaching aid materials could be supported for the school in the future as well, he requests.
Read more about our work in Myanmar.