The opening of an e-learning centre marks a new step for the Marist Mission in Ranong.
When MMR arrived in Ranong five years ago, there were no educational opportunities for young Burmese migrants past the age of 13. A tertiary education was only to be dreamed of. Now, with the opening of MMR’s new e-learning centre, that dream is becoming a reality for nine students, who are enrolled in a Diploma in Liberal Studies through the Australian Catholic University.
ACU has previously offered the Liberal Studies course to a group of students living in the refugee camps further north on the Thai Burmese border, and MMR are delighted to be able to join the programme this semester.
The programme is run in conjunction with four partner universities in the United States and Canada, and comprises eight unit courses in total: English Communication; Business Communication Skills; International Human Rights Law and Practice; Managing Organisations; Leadership Theory; An Introduction to Psychology; World Geography; and People, Places and Global Issues. The diploma is expected to take 18 months to complete. It will be co-ordinated locally by Fr Kevin Medillo, while tutors Andrew and Nuala Moraes will provide support for academic English, motivation and study skills.
We have been very fortunate in acquiring a new building to be the “e-learning centre” for this programme, complete with computers and internet access for the students and ample space for independent study. The building, and the course itself, were officially declared open in a ceremony held on 20 October 2010. Mr Duncan McLaren, the course co-ordinator from ACU, was present to mark the occasion. The ceremony also included an ecumenical prayer service in which local Buddhist monks led a short prayer, before Fr John Larsen blessed the building. The new students replied with a song.
The students began their studies the next day with an orientation by Duncan, followed by the start of the first unit, English Communication, presented by visiting ACU fellow Maya Cranitch. After just a few days the students are already well immersed in the programme, and the first impressions of students and staff alike are overwhelmingly positive. “We have already learnt about student resources, and new skills for researching and presenting” says student Thiha Soe. Another student, Louis has enjoyed learning how to search for information on the internet – “I didn’t know how to find what I wanted, before” he says. His colleague, Moses, quickly adds: “And we have learned to be careful about what information is reliable. Previously, I thought that all information on the internet was reliable”. And what do the students hope to gain from this diploma? The answers are many and varied – improved English and computer skills, a better general knowledge, increased confidence, leadership skills, an international qualification. Student Francis sums it all up succinctly: “I hope to be able to able to see a bigger picture of the world” he says.