Unlike most of their counterparts across the country, who usually take the bus to school, students of Mone Gone village—in the shadow of Mt. Popa in Mandalay Division—take a different approach: small wooden boats.
Every week day, about 80 middle and high school students from the village spend more than an hour on the roundtrip, crossing the nearly 1.5 mile-long waters above the Kyat Mauk Taung dam. Their destination is the high school at Magyi Tine village, at the far end of the reservoir, where they must go for their education, since Mone Gone has neither a middle school nor a high school. The school is only accessible by waterway.
The daily boat trip is not under adult supervision as parents are busy with their tomato and onion plantations, the lifeline of the people in the region. So, students have to take turns to row the boats themselves.
“They can all swim, so we are not worried that much,” said one of the parents from Mone Gone. “But when there’s heavy rain and strong wind, we keep them home.”
Locals recall that one boat ferrying children to school capsized in 2008, and a middle school girl was drowned. According to a dam guard, the water is quite deep.
But the children are unworried.
“It’s fun to go to school by boat,” high school student Thein Zaw said. “When you get tired of rowing, there is always another person to take your oar.”
“It’s a boring to spend time onboard,” protested another high school student, Kyaw Min Htet.
“If we could go there by land we would be able to rest anywhere we like,” he said. “Plus, we could play on our way to school.”