Review / Human Rights
A must-read for educators
Title: Barriers to education in Kunhing township, Shan State (October 2011)
Author: Nang Zawm Aye, MA
Burma’s previously ruling military junta had divided the Shan State into 55 townships, of which at least 33 of them are considered conflict areas. One of them is Kunhing, a township in Loilem district, Shan State South. What happens there is more or less identical to what does in the remaining 30 plus townships. We have therefore to thank the author for providing us with a comprehensive description of problems associating with the education sector in Burma, especially in Shan State.
Kunhing has a population of 56,415, of which 22,566 are 18 and above. The remaining 33,849 are below 18, of which the number of those under school age may be about one third. Which means some 22,425 of them should be at school.
However, according to Nang Zaw Aye’s report, only 7,569 are going to school: 3,781 of them at government operated schools and 3,788 at schools operated by the Kali People’s Militia Force (PMF), formerly the Shan State Army (SSA) 7th Brigade that had agreed to become a paramilitary force controlled by the Burma Army in April 2010.
According to the figures here, a staggering twice as many have either never been to school or, if they have, are out of school. Which is worse than the national figures given by the UN:
- 40% never enrolled in school
- Of those who enroll 2/3-3/4 of them drop out before 5th grade
The people she had asked: the children, their parents and the community organizations working there agree on two things:
- That the parents are poor, 80% of them living at $50 a month income; struggle against hunger is an ever-present issue
- There are no schools close to their homes
The government has set up 2 high schools, 3 middle schools and 25 primary schools in the township, while the Kali PMF had set up 84 schools. But this has been a drop in the bucket of public need.
One reason given for the poverty of schools is that Burma devotes the lowest percentage of its Gross Domestic Products (GDP) to education, 1.4%, compared Indonesia’s 6.2%. The other reason is the state of conflict in the area. (The SSA South concluded a ceasefire agreement with Naypyitaw on 2 December 2011).
Other reasons for not sending their children includes, among others:
- Language barrier and accompanying discrimination
- Hostility, grown out of multiple Burma Army abuses, to all government institutions including schools
- Use of education as a Burmanization and propaganda tool by the government
Zawm Aye has recommended a set of suggestions to all parties concerned, especially the government:
- Curricular reform; to make education for peace and not for war
- Integration of Non-Formal Education by non-state actors into the national education system
- Introduction and promotion of multi-lingual system
- Increase of budget allocations for public education
About all, like all other problems in Burma, she says political settlement must come first, because “Without a political solution to address the problems in Myanmar, education will remain in turmoil.”
To do justice to the author, please read the 112-page research paper at http://www.english.panglong.org/images/docs/publications/barriers-to-education-in-kun-hing.pdf