Mobile education programs offer schooling to children in Myanmar (Burma)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Here is something interesting. I have seen two stories on different mobile education projects in Myanmar (also known as Burma). The first, called the Myanmar Mobile Education Project (MyME), provides lessons and materials to children working in teashops by way of mobile buses. The six-month pilot project was launched this year.
Around 120 young teashop workers have attended classes in the school buses since a six-month pilot programme was launched on 18 January. So far myME has enrolled the employees of two teashops, who commit to two hours of study each day, six days a week. Their employers are compensated for the leave.

The solar-powered classroom is fitted with 20 desks and four teachers, who offer basic education and computer skills training. Curricula are designed by combining materials from the government’s Education Research Bureau and international textbooks.

If the pilot programme proves successful, Tim Aye Hardy says they will go on to serve restaurant workers in Rangoon, and eventually move into some of Burma’s remote ethnic regions, where access to education is often extremely limited. The myME is planning to suit up four more buses.

“We have already reached agreements with five more teashops to offer classes at their places,” he said.

Most of the children working in the teashops dropped out of school to support their families because of economic hardship, said Tim Aye Hardy. Many, he added, have shown great interest in resuming study – some of them even attended class wearing their old school uniforms.
The other program, which is featured in the video below, has been running for much longer. Platform Classroom, founded in 2009, provides classes and after-school tuition for about 40 children in Mandalay.
[Platform Classroom] is set up on a sidewalk next to the Mandalay Central Railway station. It has become the learning centre for almost 40 children – many of whom are homeless and shelter at the station.

Sein Win, founder of the programme, says the biggest challenge is the weather.

“I think it would be impossible to rent a place because apartment rental fees around here are between 500,000 and 800,000 kyat [US$500-$800) per month and we don’t have that budget”, he said. “Also, if it rains we need to stop the classes and take shelter. If it keeps raining, we must send the kids home and call a substitute class later.”

The seven teachers who work here are volunteers - the classes are dependent on donations, which subsidise tuition fees for a few older students, as well as the school entrance fees and learning materials for all the younger students.
I think these types of education facilities are incredibly innovative, akin to the "floating schools" in Bangladesh and certainly more effective that the haphazard building of random classrooms, à la Three Cups of Tea. There are, of course, issues with retention and sustainability, but that goes for any aid project that relies on volunteers and donor funding.

No comments :

Post a Comment