Displaced Children in Western Myanmar Unable to Attend Reopening Schools

By Lei Lei 2 June 2020

Yangon — More than 2,000 children from displaced families in Chin State’s Paletwa Township will have difficulty going to school when public schools reopen in July, according to Chin State government.

Tens of thousands of residents in Paletwa and Samee in Chin State have been displaced by the fighting between Myanmar’s military and the Arakan Army (AA) since last year.

There are around 1,500 school-age children from 1,170 households at camps for the internally displaced people (IDPs) in Paletwa, and 750 children from 707 households at IDP camps in Samee, according to the Chin State government.

“I am afraid their schools will not be able to reopen. So if only the schools in urban areas open, we will need a large number of classrooms as well as teachers. And I am afraid textbooks cannot be sent here,” said the head of Paletwa Township education department, Salai Aung Min.

The Basic Education Department said public schools will reopen on July 21, but the two towns lack classrooms, desks and books to teach the displaced children.

Chin State government is working to build temporary schools for displaced children in the two towns, said Chin State minister for municipal affairs, electricity and industry U Soe Htet.

“We are setting up tents with makeshift desks and chairs with government funds and cash contributions from donors. Teachers also fled the clashes, but we hope they will be able to come to urban areas of Samee and Paletwa where IDPs are gathered,” said U Soe Htet.

The minister held discussions with the chairman of Relief and Rehabilitation Committee for Chin IDPs (RRCCI) Salai Issac Khin on Friday on the schooling of displaced children.

“I suggested using churches as classrooms if there is a shortage of classrooms. This is for children in urban areas. But it will be really difficult for rural children to get to school,” he said.

Although Paletwa and Samee towns are relatively stable, clashes are still reported in around 20 villages near Paletwa, according to Salai Issac Khin.

“Teachers don’t want to go to Paletwa. Even if schools reopen, I am afraid all the teachers will not come and teach,” added Salai Issac Khin.

U Soe Htet in January told The Irrawaddy that civil servants are refusing to work in Paletwa because of security concerns.

There are 384 basic education schools in Paletwa but 212 schools had already been closed since 2019 due to a lack of teachers before the fierce clashes resumed in February, which blocked transport links to the town.

There were around 30,000 basic education students at public schools in Paletwa Township in the 2019-20 academic year. Of 1,253 teachers in the township, around 100 have applied for transfers to other areas, according to the township education office.

In Paletwa Township, which has a population of just over 100,000 people, the fighting has affected around 60,000 people, displacing some 9,000.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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