October 10, 2018

Mobile teachers help out-of-school children from ethnic minority in Myanmar

The project promotes books and supporting “struggling learners” at home and at school

Photo credit: Karen Teacher Working Group

Billy Briggs

Education in emergencies writer

Years of civil war and tension has meant about 75,000 children from the Karen people have missed out on education.

Mobile teachers are being trained in Southeast Myanmar to educate tens of thousands of children from the ethnic minority Karen people who have been out of school.

An estimated 75,000 children have missed years of schooling due to poverty and civil conflict - but a new project is trying to tackle the problem.

Save the Children has been training people to become mobile teachers and educate people in their homes to try to boost numeracy and literacy rates.

The charity has also been distributing books to schools after children’s stories were translated into the Sgaw Karen language. In Myanmar, ethnic tension and civil conflict over many years has affected children’s education.

The Karen conflict is an armed conflict in Kayin State, Myanmar  - formerly known as Karen State, Burma. Karen people are one of the largest ethnic groups in Southeast Asia and the conflict has been described as one of the world's longest-running civil wars.

The Karen form a population of up to seven million with around twenty different Karen dialects. Sgaw and Pwo Karen are the two most widely spoken. 

Save the children has distributed books to schools after children’s stories were translated into the Sgaw Karen language

Photo credit: Karen Teacher Working Group

Save the Children has been working with the Karen Teachers' Work Group and Karen Education Department to try to improve education for children.

Together they have trained 60 people to become mobile teacher trainers in Karen areas, with the aim of promoting home learning in literacy and numeracy.

The project is also promoting the “access, use, and love of reading books in the community” while supporting “struggling learners at home and at school”.

A Save the Children spokesperson said: “The training took three days in May 2018. KTWG’s mobile teacher trainers are now in the field travelling to 157 training sites to provide training to parents and community member from June to September 2018. 

"The training aims to reach 7019 parents in 216 villages living in Karen areas of Southeast Myanmar.”

To support children’s literacy development, both at home and at school, more than 1000 schools have received new books.

Save the Children said: “Access to children’s books is vital for children. The children’s books were created in 2017 by picking 30 children’s stories and translating them into the Sgaw Karen language. 

A teachers works with students at a school in Karen area of Myanmar

Photo credit: Karen Teacher Working Group

"Now there are 1220 schools in Karen areas that received the books and will use them to develop the literacy of children both at school and at home. 

"The books management training was also delivered to school teachers by mobile teacher trainers, to teach the schools how to keep the books and also provide easy access to books for children at the same time.”

In July, UNICEF said it was supporting populations displaced by continued fighting in Kachin and northern Shan States. An estimated 319,000 children were in need of humanitarian assistance 

UNICEF said: “In Kachin and northern Shan, the fighting between the Myanmar Army and armed ethnic organisations has lessened from the peak earlier in the year but continues. 

"For more than two years, the Government has not permitted UN or international non-governmental organisation staff to travel to areas beyond government control. 

“UNICEF remains extremely concerned about the protection of civilians in these areas - especially children."

The Karen National Union (KNU) has been fighting the central government since the very early days of Burma's independence from Britain six decades ago.

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