Fighting for Education amid the Coup in Myanmar – Kyar Inn Seik Gyi Programme
Sponsored children: 4 of 12
Myanmar: overview of the historical and current situation
Known officially as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the country is home to more than 135 ethnic groups. Other significant peoples include the Shan (11% of the
population), Karen (7%), Chin, Mon, Kachin, Kayah, Wa, Rohingya, Chinese, Indian and Tamil. For decades there has been an armed conflict between the Myanmar Army and the Kachin and Shan peoples in the north, and between extremist Buddhist and Muslim groups in the east. Around 700,000 people have been displaced thus far.
The transition to democracy which started in 2012 has raised the stakes and led to an intensification of the conflicts. The first semi-free elections, in November 2015, were won by the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, as were those held in November 2020. There were high expectations of that new government, which faced some tough challenges, including rural development, educational reform, healthcare improvement. In regards to the economy, the gradual opening up of the country to the world market had led to dynamic growth in Myanmar.
What's happening in Myanmar right now?
Today, the country faces significant infrastructure deficiencies, such as the banking sector and public policies. Since the military coup of 1 February 2021, Myanmar has been experiencing an unprecedented political, economic and social crisis. The Covid-19 pandemic and its strict management by the civilian authorities
had already weakened the health system and caused the closure of many factories and production centres, resulting in the loss of jobs for many people. Many families were left without income.
The military takeover – which challenged the outcome of the November 2020 parliamentary elections that brought the government’s party to power – led to large-scale civilian demonstrations and strikes, which caused considerable disruption to the country.
These demonstrations, which were harshly repressed by the army, gave way after a few months to violent clashes between groups of civilians who took up arms and were joined by ethnic armies.
Ethnic minority groups are the most vulnerable
Depending on the region, the ethnic armies are at war with the Tatmadaw (Burmese armed forces) to manage their territory autonomously. The regions most affected by this internal conflict, officially launched in the autumn of 2021, are Kayah and Karen state in the east, Chin state and Sagaing division in the north-west; they have led to the displacement of 1.4 million people in makeshift camps across the borders between India, Thailand, and China.
The current education system in Myanmar poses a challenge for children in rural areas to pursue their education, as they have to prioritize family income. Furthermore, the whole system – from primary school to higher education – relies on a system of
additional classes. These are offered by the regular teachers in order to increase their inadequate salaries, originally intended to provide extra support for pupils who needed it. However, it is become increasingly difficult to pass the exams without such additional support, which many cannot afford. Children of ethnic minority groups face further difficulties as classes are taught in the language of the Bamar majority, which the children are often unfamiliar with.
The Karen state
Kyar Inn Seik Gyi is located in the Karen state in the east of the country, one of the least developed states. The territory of this large town covers about 10,000 inhabitants; most of them are farmers who make a living from their produce. Because of the violent conflicts, there is great difficulty in travelling within the country.
In conflict areas, villages have been displaced into the valley. Villagers lost their land and were forced to settle along the roads. While many moved to cities, farmers were not equipped for employment in such areas. This has led to many young people crossing the borders to Thailand despite dangers, in search of employment.
The Kyar Inn Seik Gyi Sponsorship Programme
The children and young people waiting to be sponsored are between 14 to 22 years old.
The local programme manager, Father Patrick Saw Aung Lwin, is a priest in the diocese of Hpa An, Karen State. He runs a boarding house, in hopes to support young people to pursue their education.
The children attend the government school, run by the military, despite the father’s reluctance for this system. But this is the only solution to allow young people to continue their education. During episodes of fighting in the area, Father Patrick keeps the children at home and ensures their education with the sisters. In this way, they are not put at risk by attending public schools where they can be conscripted if troops pass by the school. Some of the older children who have finished their studies continue to live in the hostel and help to supervise the young people while attending vocational training in English and in computer skills.
How will your donation be used?
By sponsoring a child in the Kyar Inn Seik Gyi programme, 25,000 kyatts (2/3 of the sponsorship) will go towards the child’s living expenses in the home (such as food, and accommodation), the child’s school fees (such as uniforms), and extra tuition for the older children. The rest will be used for emergencies in the programme.
The sponsorship will enable them to study in an environment that is safe and conducive to education, to help them complete their studies.
Support the children of Kyar Inn Seik Gyi to obtain education amid the civil war in Myanmar.