School’s Out in Kachin State
covering burma and southeast asia
Saturday, March 23, 2019
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School’s Out in Kachin State


By Khun Sam AUGUST, 2005 - VOLUME 13 NO.8


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Bleak future for students and teachers in Burma’s northernmost state

 

Mai Mai gave up on education after her first year as an English major at Myitkyina University and has no plans to revive her academic career. “I don’t want to continue university,” she says. “It’s worthless.” Instead, she spends her time trying to earn money to support her family—something that has occupied her since childhood, when she routinely skipped class to work at nearby jade and gold mines.

 

 

Having left Burma for Thailand in 2003, 23-year-old Mai Mai now works as a human rights activist in Chiang Mai and is pragmatic when it comes to how she might have benefited from completing her studies. “Nothing would change,” she says. “Apart from having photos of a graduation ceremony.”

 

Drop out rates in Burmese schools are among the highest in Asia. A Unesco report from 2004 noted that “only half of children who enter primary school will reach grade 5.” While the military government crows about improvements in education—the opening of new schools and colleges and burgeoning IT facilities—the truth of the matter is that almost 40 percent of Burma’s public sector spending goes towards defense, with combined spending on health and education less than half that amount.

 

Most schools in Kachin State lack basic classroom equipment, never mind proper libraries or laboratories. Teachers are paid an average of less than the equivalent of US $5 a month—a wage unattractive enough that, even in poverty stricken Burma, there are many schools left with no choice but to recruit unqualified staff on a short term basis.



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