On 7 August nine young students graduated in an impressive ceremony. They graduated with a Diploma in Liberal Studies from the Australian Catholic University (ACU). Present in Ranong for the occasion was Linda Gail Crossley, Executive Dean of the ACU Department of Arts and Sciences, together with Duncan MacLaren the Director of this course, and some other international friends.
For the past 18 months these students have been studying the course on-line with the help of two local tutors, Andrew and Nuala Moraes, who are Marist volunteers from New Zealand. Internet technology enabled international collaboration. Professors from ACU, the Jesuit Universities of Fairfield, Gonzaga, and Regis in the USA, and York University in Canada, conducted specific units. In this way students from Burmese migrant work communities were able to study internationally from the Thai-Myanmar border where normally tertiary education would be impossible for them.
The programme was made possible by the generous scholarships from ACU and the dedicated commitment of Fr Kevin Medilo SM, the Director of Marist Mission Ranong, who coordinated this pilot project. In September a second batch will begin a similar course which continues to promote education as a right, not a privilege, for these gifted students in the hope that the graduates will benefit from a broad-based education, develop critical thinking skills, and be prepared as future leaders in Myanmar.
By Pat Devlin