MYANMAR || Poverty, conflict, and cultural barriers should be addressed to increase access to education of children.”

Thidar Soe, Myanmar, APMA 2019

One of the undeniable human rights is the right to education. The concept of education is broadly related to learning, but it is interdependent in terms of content.. Every developed country prioritizes education for their citizens. In this globalized world, every country must implement sustainable policies for education. However, in Myanmar, some children cannot access primary level education, even though primary level education is free and provided by the government. There are three main reasons why children cannot access primary education in Myanmar.

First, children in the rural areas find it a challenge to access primary schools.The main reason for this issue is poverty. In Myanmar, many families experience extreme poverty, especially in rural areas. Parents choose not to send their child to school, even though the primary education is free and provided by the government. Children from low-income families are the principal victims of this problem. In effect, many of them are obliged to find work to support the needs of their families. Often, they are forced to work in mines, on construction sites, or as domestic help. Some children even work in a restaurant as a waiter for their survival. Some work as a servant in households even though they are very young to do those kinds of things. If the government ignores these children, the future of Myanmar will be worse.

The young generations are our future leaders. That’s why the government has to invest much in our future leaders. Middle and high school students need more support such as transportation or tuition fees. Education is as important as shelter, food, water, and sanitation. So, it is the government’s responsibility to reduce poverty and ensure all children in the country can access their right to education

The second reason for deprivation of education among children is the civil war. The conflict between military and armed groups continues to occur especially in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan states. In these conflict-affected areas, families needed to move to another place to escape from the war. Some families have to live in Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps and some have to live in a very remote area far from their village. The question is, how can those children access education? In the IDP camps and in the remote areas, there are no schools nor teachers to teach those children. Those families already have a very low living standard. They do not have access to food, medical treatment, clean water to drink, and even electricity.

Needless to say, those children were directly affected by their lack of access to education and their development. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every human being has the right to education and basic education should be compulsory. But in Myanmar, children in conflict areas are not ensured their access to their right to education. If civil war continues for the long term, the state and local governments should find a solution for the children who are affected by the war and take proper action to ensure their access to quality education. The government should provide formal and informal basic education for those children and should find a way to stop civil war.

Another obstacle to access education is the language barrier. Ethnic people have their own language and use their own language for everyday life. They cannot understand and speak the national language very well. However, all curriculum is provided in Myanmar language by the State. If those ethnic people do not understand Myanmar language, how can they learn this curriculum? This is one kind of discrimination faced by the ethnic groups. If they can learn the curriculum in their own language, they can understand the course easily.  It is a widely accepted notion that the education system is under-resourced, corrupted, and failed to equip young people with skills and competence to face the future. Therefore, it is necessary for the Government to provide an ethnic language curriculum to their related region or the local government should be given authority to draw their curriculum in their own language. That will be a solution to the language barrier to access education.

To sum up, children cannot easily access education even though the government provides it free of charge due to a variety of factors. The root cause for the lack of access to education is poverty, conflict between armed groups and the military, and the language barrier. These are the most important things that the government needs to address.

Photo from Burma News International.

*The contents of this opinion piece are solely those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the view of the either Global Campus of Human Rights Asia Pacific, the universities under it, or the APMA program.

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