Rakhine’s Children Attend School, Ignoring Myanmar’s Boycott

By The Irrawaddy 3 June 2021

Nearly 360,000 children went to school as basic education primary, middle and high schools reopened in Rakhine State on June 1, the annual back-to-school day in Myanmar, according to Dr. Tun Tun Thein, deputy director of the state education office.

“A total of 358,931 pupils attended when schools reopened yesterday. Almost 100 percent of students went to school,” he told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

Schools were reopened amid fears over another wave of COVID-19 following the daily jumps in cases over the past week.

Dr. Tun Tun Thein said COVID-19 regulations had been issued by the health and education ministries before the reopening.

A middle-school teacher from Myebon said students barely follow COVID-19 regulations. “As the weather is very hot, both students and teachers do not wear masks. COVID-19 regulations are in place, but people are not afraid of COVID and they don’t care,” said the teacher.

Meanwhile, Rakhine parents’ sending their children to school has drawn criticism on social media as many parents elsewhere in the country have refused to send their children to school as part of the civil disobedience movement against the military regime.

Daw Htay Htay San, a mother in Sittwe, the state capital, said children have lost access to schooling due to fighting and COVID-19 in the state. Schools were closed nationwide last year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We have sympathy for the people from the other parts of the country facing instability. We understand their feelings, but they should also understand us and should not blame our children for going to school,” she told the Rakhine media on Tuesday.

Due to the fighting between Myanmar’s military and the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine from late 2018 to November 2020, students lost access to schooling.

Even though schools have reopened in Rakhine, parents are concerned that COVID-19 and violence could break out any time in the state, leading to further school closures.

A mother from Pyay in Bago Region said she would not send her children to school because she has no trust in the education system provided by the military regime.

“Because they kill people for no reason and arrest teachers under various charges. Under such circumstances, we stand with parents from across the country. We’d rather let our children skip school for a year, but will not send them to school under military rule,” she said.

The military regime has arrested and filed incitement charges against striking education staff as it puts pressure on educators to return to classrooms.

While many teachers have joined the civil disobedience movement, only six teachers — four from Taungup and two from Gwa — have joined the strike in Rakhine, according to the state’s education office.

In April, the AA chief, Major General Tun Myat Naing, who has great influence over the Rakhine population, said he did not want the CDM and street protests spreading to Rakhine, saying they will disrupt the armed group’s attempt to secure greater autonomy.

There are 3,309 basic education schools in Rakhine and 128 of them can no longer operate as villagers fled their homes in the fighting between the military and AA.

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