Sittwe Schools Reopen Despite Security Fears

By Nyein Nyein 17 July 2012

Schools in the Arakan State capital Sittwe have reopened for the first time since a fierce sectarian conflict erupted in western Burma although many students are still staying away from class, according to local residents.

High schools, the Technological University, Computer University and University of Distance Education are functioning once again, but most students are staying away for security reasons and the main Sittwe University remains shut.

Local authorities have arranged security for the universities and schools, said Win Myaing, a government spokesman for Arakan State affairs.

He told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that they are trying to reopen Sittwe University before long and added that, “As it is close to the Muslim villages, some feel insecure about going to school although some students have not come back from their homes in other cities as well.”

Since the violence began in early June, universities in Sittwe and Thandwe have remained closed and students who boarded have returned to stay with their parents elsewhere. Win Myaing said that both students and parents have been informed about the reopening of the schools.

Residents of Sittwe told The Irrawaddy that all high schools as well as primary and secondary schools have reopened and children have been attending lessons since last week. But schools in Buthetaung and Maungdaw townships, where the communal violence first started on June 8, have not yet resumed teaching.

Local people say that the situation is not yet stable in the city although things have been calm in recent days. Due to the conflict which began a month ago, around 80 people have been killed with more than 3,000 houses burned down and tens of thousands displaced, according to government figures.

Some students at Sittwe’s Technological University, around eight miles from downtown, went to class accompanied by security police on Monday, said Aung Kyaw Nyunt, who is a parent and owner of a student boarding house.

“Yesterday, at least one or two soldiers were accompanying them in the school buses,” he told The Irrawaddy, adding that tensions were still high. “Today my son and his friends were passing Muslim villages on the way back from class and were confronted by a group of men. Their teacher kept them inside and called the police.

“We have about half of the students now at the boarding house but [parents] still worry about their security.”

At least 10 employees of the United Nations and international NGOs were arrested by the Burmese security forces in Maungdaw and Sittwe last month on allegations that they were involved in provoking the recent unrest. And there are reports that daily burglaries have been taking place in Maungdaw despite the imposing of a curfew.