Over 31,000 refugee children from southeast Myanmar’s conflict-torn Kayah State are in urgent need of funding to continue their schooling.
Despite the ongoing fighting in Kayah, students are attending community schools, including in makeshift classrooms at camps for internally displaced persons (IDP).
The community schools have been set up by former government school teachers known locally as ‘CDM teachers’ for their participation in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), which was established by state employees who refuse to work under military rule. CDM teachers and volunteers have been working since last year to provide education for displaced children.
One CDM teacher, who is also a spokesperson for the Kayah State Basic Education Teachers’ Union, told The Irrawaddy that there are 280 community schools providing education to 31, 735 children, including primary, middle and high school students, who have missed out on studying for over two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the turmoil created by the Myanmar military’s coup.
The schools have been funded by donations from parents and local well-wishers. But with more and families displaced by the fighting in Kayah, as the junta escalates its campaign of terror against civilians, more funding is needed to provide children with basic school supplies.
Last month, the Kayah State’s Teachers Union, along with other fundraisers, launched a campaign with the target of raising 300 million kyats (US$145,000) for the refugee kids.
“We want to buy textbooks and stationery for the children as their parents can no longer afford to do so,” said the CDM teacher.
However, the campaign has failed to reach its target and so has been extended for another month. People have until November 29 to make donations, which can be made by buying raffle tickets via the Facebook pages of the Kayah State Teachers Union and We Love Myanmar Global. The raffle tickets cost US$10 each.
“We only raised 46 per cent of our target. We have used that money to buy textbooks for the children, but there are still many children who haven’t received a textbook,” said the teacher, who urged the public to make donations.
A fundraiser from Korea who helped organize the campaign also called on people not to turn a blind eye to the educational needs of Kayah’s displaced children.
“In armed conflicts, education is frequently not considered to be as important as other needs and is often overlooked. But it is vital that children have the right to continue to study in these situations,” he said.
The CDM teacher said that her students enjoyed learning and attending school, despite the difficulties of doing so in a conflict zone.
“But they miss their homes and say they want to go back to living in their houses instead of staying in tents,” added the teacher.
Since the Myanmar military seized power from the civilian government on February 1, 2021, Kayah State has been one of the strongholds of resistance against the junta. Heavy fighting between local People’s Defense Forces and military regime troops has been ongoing for over a year.
Junta forces have responded to their heavy losses by escalating their military operations and violence against the local population, including indiscriminate artillery and airstrikes on civilian targets, the killing of civilians and the torching of villages.
To escape the violence, the majority of Kayah State’s 287,000-odd people have fled to the jungle or are in IDP camps.