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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ensuring that children in Myanmar are not lost to poverty because of conflict

In Myanmar, newly constructed classrooms are helping children lead a normal life, despite everything around them having been turned upside down.

Children and their parents have spent the last four years avoiding the violence of a reignited conflict in North Shan and Kachin States between ethnic minorities and the government-led military of Myanmar. The conflict has forced families to leave their homes and flee to the relative calm of temporary camps.

The camps were never intended to be permanent, but with each passing day their permanence becomes more likely given that the conflict shows no signs of subsiding soon and there is nowhere else families can go. While the camps do offer respite from the conflict and a measure of safety, they are very challenging places to live.

Families, many of whom are young and headed by women, struggle to find ways to earn the modest amount of income required to meet their daily needs. In some of the camps, children have not been able to go to school for years because there are no educational facilities, school supplies, or teachers.

Conflict has stolen homes, communities, education, and stability from children. And while HOPE International Development Agency is addressing, in other ways, the needs of families affected by the armed conflict raging throughout the countryside, we are also working to restore the lives of children by providing educational facilities, materials, teachers, and teacher training right in the camps.

Education cannot wait for more stable times. If children do not receive an education in their early years, then they, among their generation, will be lost to poverty.

HOPE International Development Agency donors have helped construct four more early childhood education centres. In addition, teaching materials and supplies have been provided to 13 existing schools and centres. Teachers have also received training, an especially important aspect of the work considering that many of the people doing the teaching do not have formal training.

Putting pencils in the hands of children, supplies in their school bags, and teachers in their classrooms does not solve the conflict that continues to rage outside the camp. But for children who are growing up in the relative safety inside the camps, education is helping give them a sense of normalcy, stability, structure, and hope for the future.