RANGOON — Burma’s government announced on Monday that a total of 1,387 schools have been temporarily shuttered due to severe flooding that has affected wide swathes of the country in recent weeks.
In a statement published in state media on Tuesday, the government said flooding in 11 states and divisions, caused by heavy rains over the last two months, had forced a disruption of the ongoing academic year at 1,010 primary schools, 293 middle schools and 84 high schools across nine states and divisions.
“Schools have been unable to open since [some of the buildings are] flooded and at some schools, refugees who fled their homes due to flooding are staying there,” said Aye Maung, a member of Action-Based Community Development (ABCD), a local NGO in Arakan State.
He said education officials were in the process of assessing water damage to some schools in the state as relief groups have begun to arrive to flood-affected areas.
“The water level is down here,” he said by phone from Mrauk-U on Tuesday. “But the refugees can’t go back to their homes since all of their houses and property were in the flood’s path. They need relief for resettlement, so they are still sheltering at monasteries and schools.”
The government said the Basic Education Department under Burma’s Ministry of Education had distributed stationery worth 317 million kyats (US$257,000) to education administrators’ offices in the affected states and divisions.
Aung Kyaw Tun, head of the Irrawaddy Division Education Department, told The Irrawaddy last week that schools there would be reopened when the floods receded and schoolhouses were deemed safe.
“I have instructed that additional classes be held on weekends for students to be able to catch up on their lessons,” he said.
The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement has said that more than 217,000 people have been affected by the flooding and 46 had died as of Monday.
State media said Arakan State was hardest hit by the school closures, with 681 schools in the western region shuttered, followed by 239 closings in Pegu Division. The remaining regions grappling with school closures include the divisions of Magwe (128 schools), Sagaing (108), Irrawaddy (77) and Rangoon (24), and the states of Kachin (62), Karen (50) and Chin (18).
Meanwhile, the well-known meteorologist Tun Lwin said the situation in Irrawaddy Division was likely to worsen in the coming days as floodwaters from Upper Burma swell the Irrawaddy River and tributaries whose ultimate destination will be the Andaman Sea via the Irrawaddy Delta.
“Currently, the Irrawaddy Delta, Rangoon, Pegu are flooded. The waters from upstream are going to come in to those areas. The water levels at currently flooded areas will rise further. And areas where water has not reached, water will come,” Tun Lwin told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.
With additional reporting by Yen Snaing.