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School is more than just a place to learn in Myanmar

29. October 2020 - Myanmar
When the rainy season in Myanmar ends in October, some places can only be reached by boat. And it is along the same route that tables and chairs for school buildings in the province set off on their journey. The hope is great that the girls and boys will be able to sit in their classrooms again at some point. The Corona pandemic has forced many of them out of regular school attendance. Time and again there were curfews or security reasons that did not allow children to go to school. All the more reason for many of them to look forward with anticipation.

"I can't wait to go back to school. My friends and I, we really want to try out the new playground," says Sai Si. The elementary school student from the village of Pane Hone near Lashio in Shan State visits the local elementary school, which was one of three schools in the region newly built last year with support from arche noVa. Not only new classrooms were built, but also toilets, hand washing stations, garbage containers and new climbing frames: "I am sure that we can learn much better now", says Sai Si. When he grows up, he wants to become a teacher as well.

This is also what the mayor of Pane Hone wants. He has seen to it that in the course of the new school building financed with BMZ project funds, his community has been provided with areas for the new facilities, such as the latrine houses, some of which are low in barriers, and the buildings for the teachers. "The village community and especially of course the parents are very happy that the educational opportunities for our children are improving. To be allowed to learn in such a new school motivates the children especially. They will be smart and maybe one day they will work here as teachers or doctors themselves," says U LonePee, mayor of Pane Hone.  

In Khite Sein, where a new school for a approx. of 50 students and five teachers has also been built, they are particularly pleased with the new hygiene and safety measures for students. "I am convinced that the children are particularly happy to come to school now that they can wash their hands properly and go to the toilet. In addition, the school grounds have a fence so that cows, pigs and water buffaloes no longer come into the schoolyard. This ensures cleanliness and safety in the grounds", says U San Lu of the Teacher-Parent Association of Se Paung School in Khite Sein. His greatest hope is that if the children receive a good education, it will not only improve community life, but also benefit the whole country.

For arche noVa the projects in which schools are newly built or renovated in rural areas in Myanmar are of high relevance. The activities range from the actual construction, for example of gender-separated and barrier-free latrines, hand washing stations or rainwater collection tanks, to the provision of water filters, hygiene education, the founding of school clubs for health care or disaster prevention exercises at schools. Natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods are just as likely in many parts of Myanmar as armed conflicts as a result of years of civil war. But in the politically unstable and economically neglected areas of Shan State, where arche noVa has been active for several years, schools also fulfill a very special function. They are often the safest place in the village. This is where the community comes together when hurricanes or floods are predicted or when there is any other threat. In addition, elementary school fulfill important tasks not only in the area of education, but also in health care and nutrition for young people. Many parents in the remote areas cannot provide their children with a complete diet, often vitamin A and calcium are missing, so that the youngest are often malnourished and do not develop in line with their age. This is remedied by regular school meals. In addition, children in the schools are vaccinated against polio, mumps and TBC, there are deworming cures and clean drinking water for all.

Local know-how for sustainable support measures

Especially in times of the Corona pandemic, he said, everyone became aware of the importance of good hygiene practices again, which children learn at school when running water and soap are available. Moreover, even the youngest children are now practicing to keep their distance - with tables and chairs produced by local carpenters, supported by arche noVa. Also small tailor shops, which sew everyday masks, were supported with aid money. Creating awareness needs many starting points to ensure the survival of the people and to improve the quality of life a little - for children and their parents.

A total of nine schools in the villages around Lashio have been extensively renovated in the past two years, benefiting more than 3,500 children and approx.175 teachers. And as soon as the rainy season ends at the end of October, another eight schools in Shan State are scheduled for renovation. The figures announced in 2016 by the then new and for the first time democratically elected Minister of Education show how urgently this is needed: More than 14,000 primary and secondary schools were missing in Myanmar, especially in rural areas. This is where arche noVa has been helping for years - and will continue to do so in the future.