Mon State — An ethnic Karen lawmaker is asking the Education Ministry to let ethnic language teachers in government schools wear their traditional dress.
Nang Moe Moe Htwe, who represents Karen State’s Hlaingbwe Township in the Upper House of the national Parliament, sent a letter to Education Minister U Myo Thein Gyi on Thursday on behalf of some of the ethnic Karen teachers in her constituency.
She said the intent was to encourage Karen youth to appreciate and know how to wear their traditional garb.
“Some people do not wear their traditional dress at our traditional festivals. But it is a problem not only among the Karen community. Many of our ethnic people have the same problem,” she told The Irrawaddy.
In her letter, she asks the Education Ministry to let all ethnic Karen teachers in Karen State wear traditional dress.
“It was not only ethnic Karen teachers from my township who wanted to wear their traditional dress. Other ethnic Karen teachers in Karen State also wanted to wear their traditional dress for sure,” the letter says.
During the previous military regime, Myanmar’s many ethnic minorities were not allowed to study their own languages. With the start of democratic reforms earlier this decade, however, the government began hiring ethnic minority teachers to teach their native tongue in government schools but requires them to wear the standard white and green uniform.
Nang Moe Moe Htwe’s letter is the first time the union government has been asked to let teachers wear their traditional dress.
Since she posted the request on Facebook, other ethnic minorities have expressed support and suggested that other minority language teachers be allowed to wear their traditional dress as well.
Nai Rot Ga Kao, program coordinator for research and advocacy from the Mon National Education Department, said it was important for the government to recognize ethnic minority teachers. He suggested the government let them wear their traditional dress at least once a week if not every day.
Nai Rot Ga Kao said Mon language teachers in Mon State started wearing traditional dress when the democratic reforms began but had to stop last year, when the government introduced a minority language teaching curriculum, made the teachers civil servants and required them to adhere to the standard uniform.
“The government should even allow ethnic [minority] students to wear their traditional dress as in Thailand, where students are allowed to wear their own traditional ethnic dress one day a week,” he said.