Myint Tun is a 13-year-old postcard seller in Bagan, Myanmar. After the death of his father, Myint’s mother struggled to take care of their five children alone. There were times when she would miss meals because there was not enough food to go around. Myint’s younger sister stopped going to school when she ran out of exercise books, as they could not afford new ones. Myint’s priority was to support his family, so he decided to leave school and work. Sadly, this is not altogether uncommon in Myanmar.
Free education is available in Myanmar, however, poverty (and therefore the need for children to contribute to family income) and the often low quality of schooling does not incentivise parents and the community to enrol children. Other factors including local conflicts and schools being far from home deny children access to an education.
Fortunately, Myint enrolled in the Non-Formal Education (NFE) programme at a monastic school, supported by Educate A Child (EAC), a programme of the Education Above All Foundation, and the Monastic Education Development Group (MEDG) through their “Inspire” project, which aims to enrol more than 72,000 out-of-school children over three years.
The project’s NFE programmes allow children from all backgrounds to accessa quality education which enhances their employability, literacy and numeracy skills. The flexibility of class hours, interactive-learning strategies, practical life-related lessons and professional teachers are critical components that encourage children to enrol.
Being able to apply knowledge and skills learned in class to the real world is relevant to the lives of children like Myint and helps support their retention. Myint is getting better at calculating his monthly income and helping his younger siblings with school work. Teachers say that many of the children are enjoying their lessons. One explained: “Not only children, but also teachers are having fun in the classrooms.”
Seeing the joyful young faces and hearing the laughter of their pupils and their noisy discussions in the classrooms motivates the teachers and project team to work harder for the future of the children.