An Education Crisis in Ranong

Charcoal Factory Children are examples of some of the most vulnerable Burmese Migrant Children not in any education system.

On August 24, 2019, 32 Burmese Migrant Teachers were arrested and deported from a Migrant Learning Centre in Ranong. This has caused an education crisis for the Burmese Migrant Community for the last 3 months with 3,000 children no longer in the education system.

This event has been called the ‘Ranong Raid’ by local media, and has captured NGO’s and Human Rights Advocates attention within Thailand.

At one level this education Crisis has now grown into a Catastrophe because the latest ‘crisis’ is on top of the sad reality that up to 80% of Migrant children are already ‘Out of School’ and 85% of Migrant Children normally leave education around 12 years of age.

While meetings continue, we are very mindful of the daily distress of parents and children who cannot send their children to school, who have to take their children to the fish and charcoal factories, the markets, and their various workplaces, which are often dangerous and not suitable for children.

Children are now locked up in homes for the day or roam the streets, they seek to play internet games at computer shops or sit at home all day feeling sad about their lost opportunities. Some parents and employers have requested us to please allow children to come to the Marist Centre as a ‘safe place’ for their children while they go to work.

Students in the Burmese Migrant Secondary Education Programme in Marist Asia Foundation are allowed to continue their education. 4 Years Secondary Education brings much brighter futures for Burmese Migrant Children.

The current challenge is that we are no longer allowed Burmese teachers to teach in the classrooms. Only Thai teachers are allowed to ‘teach’ while the current education and documentation challenge for Burmese Migrant Teachers and Students is unravelled.

While there have many meetings at both the local levels of Ministry of Education and among Migrant Learning Centres, and also meetings with United Nations IOM, UNESCO, UNICEF, Save The Children, World Vision, Help without Frontiers and other NGO’s, there has been little real progress made for the children.

While children sit at home or on the streets, one of the key debates in the background is between sending migrant children to Thai Schools; the ‘security’ and ‘sustainability’ argument. Or allowing Migrant Learning Centres to exist to serve the more flexible needs of migrant communities whose needs are to learn their own Burmese language and have an education pathway that allows them to return back to Myanmar and continue education; the ‘Myanmar education’ and ‘Burmese Parents Return Home’ argument.

This debate focusses us on the role and vital place of ‘Migrant Learning Centres’ in the context of providing flexible education for Burmese Migrant Children. For the past 15-20 years they have been allowed to operate, yet the Ranong Raid has now questioned their legality under Thai Law.

The current challenge is to find a solution so that our Burmese teachers are properly documented and allowed to return to the classrooms, Learning Centres are registered under Thai Law, and children are able to return to education.

Some 160 Burmese parents have chosen to send their children to some of the local Thai schools, and while they have been welcomed, this situation has revealed the lack of preparedness for teachers who can communicate in Burmese, a suitable curriculum for children who do not have the necessary Thai language skills, and the capacity to manage large numbers of migrant children.

This has caused many migrant parents to be upset with the education experience of their children and the loss of a suitable education pathway for their children.

Marist Asia Foundation has been committed to advocate for a genuine dialogue with both government and Burmese Learning Centres. We have hosted numerous meetings of both parties. We ourselves are currently taking steps to place our Burmese staff on Non Immigrant O Volunteer Visa’s as a way of returning them safely to the classroom, and we have begun the process for legal registration as a Learning Centre for our Education Programmes.

Yet the registration process is not clear for Burmese Migrant Learning Centres and their specific needs: Can they teach a flexible Thai and Myanmar Curriculum? Can they be approved to have ‘Burmese Teachers’? What criteria do they need to meet in terms of physical learning spaces and teacher qualifications?

Currently Marist Asia Foundation is the only Learning Centre open and providing education for Burmese Migrants in Ranong outside of the Royal Thai Government School system. We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the Thai Non Formal Education Department and use our Thai teachers and International Volunteer Teachers to continue our education programmes.

Marist Asia Foundation has also made a decision to welcome up to 60 more Burmese Migrant Teenagers early into the Burmese Migrant Secondary Education Programme with an entrance test on Dec 13. We will have an early start date for January 6 rather than May 15 to urgently bring back students into a daily education routine.

We sincerely hope that the Thai Government recognises the special and complex context of education on the Myanmar Thailand Border for Migrant communities. We have around 110 Migrant Learning Centres supporting over 16,000 vulnerable Burmese Migrant Children on the Thai Burma Border. And this is not including the estimated 200,000 Burmese Migrant Children who are not in any education system at all. The recognition and support of Burmese Migrant Learning Centres is vitally important to achieve ‘Education For All’ children.

The most vulnerable Burmese Migrant Children need to be kept at the centre of the discussion about sustainable education pathways.

Added to this complexity we have over 700 Burmese teachers unrecognised and extremely poorly paid. We need NGO’s, Education Stakeholders and both Thai and Myanmar Governments to dialogue together to reach an agreement about an effective and sustainable solution for the future of Burmese Migrant Children on the Thai Burma Border. We need to keep the education needs of the most vulnerable Burmese Migrant Children at the centre of the discussion so that any solution will truly bring them a brighter future.

We are thankful to so many supporters and organisations who have shown their concern and advocacy with us over the past 3 months. We continue to work together for the right to education for all our migrant children.

To understand more about the challenges and needs of Burmese Migrant Children you can download: Burmese Migrant Education Survey: Bridges – Participatory Action Research on the Future of Migrant Education in Thailand. You can download this report here

Marist Asia Foundation was proud to be a partner with other Migrant Education Organisations in this 2019 Research Project.

Migrant Worker Stories: Gaining Skills, Growing Hope

Marist Asia Foundation recognises that so many Burmese Migrant Workers have stopped their education journey around 12 years of age to find work to support their families. Many work in fish factories. By providing Sunday Migrant Workers classes, giving life skills and Thai, English and Computer Classes they can have more choices beyond the fish factory in their future.

“English is the International language to communicate and find information on the internet”

I am Ma Thet Hnin Oo. I have been living and working in Ranong, Thailand for several years. I have been studying free English class once a week every Sunday in Marist Asia Foundation for 3 months already.

Now, I am glad to see my improvement. Before I studied here, I could only read English alphabet. I have never dreamed that I had such a good chance to study English again in my life. It is so difficult to find this kind of study chance once a week while you are working here.

Now, I am getting to know some fruit vocabularies in English. I start listening to English song and trying to read some English words on banner or on street and road. I think when we used to speak and learn English frequently, it is getting easier.

I find it quite interesting and fun learning English. English is international use language to communicate and find information on internet. My co-workers find me quite funny when I practice my English with them but I don’t. I know that it’s a good way to practice your new language.

I am inspired with the teachers who are teaching me in the class. I wish I could speak, read and write English fluently like them. I know that it takes long time to do it. I need to work hard for that. I am thankful to each one of people who involves in this program such as teachers, program donor and manager.

“I aim to share with others what I have learnt in class”

I am Mg Wathan Ko Ko. Now, I am studying in Thai class. I am from Mon State, Myanmar. My parents left there. I have been living in Ranong, Thailand for a while. In the past, I had been worked in fish factory and I had studied Computer class at Marist Asia Foundation (MAF). Then, I lost the chance to continue to study because I had to work full time and I was so busy. Now, I quit from that job and am working in Phone shop. The reason I quit my previous job because I would like to study in Thai Class which is supported by MAF and could take day off every Sunday.

 

I want to understand Thai because I live in Thailand. I have been discriminated by others because I don’t understand Thai.  I am very happy to come and study in Thai class. There are many people who do not understand Thai like me. I wish

they all could get a chance like I do. I also aim to share others back what I have learnt in my class. MAF gives this opportunity to our Burmese migrant workers and children who are indeed needed to be in classroom again is what a precious gift ever we have received. Now, people like me who are in classroom again can shine like a diamond in the sky because the supports from MAF, teachers and managers who run this program well. We will be always thankful and grateful to all who involved in this program.

“Nowadays is technology era… I think everyone should learn computer skills”

My name is Daw San New Oo. I am working as a head master of Lotus Pond Learning Centre in Ranong, Thailand. I have been working as a teacher in Ranong for 14 years.

Nowadays is technology era, I think everyone should learn ITC skill. I am learning it so I can manage the school data, information, and accounting properly on computer. I can teach back to my students too.

In my computer class, I have

been learning properly from the basic and usage of computer by understanding, applying and also playing games. I have learnt the Hardware and software which are the parts of a personal computer, the connections between Input and Output of the hardware, application usages base on operating system which are included in Software, the brain of a computer or CPU which can work millions of jobs within a second, and the process of Hard Disk and RAM. All in all, I have started learning from typing and Microsoft Word in practical way.

In the future, I am going to apply what I have learnt in my class to my learning Center and will also share back to my students.

“After I joined English Class my mind has changed”

I am Ma Thandar who is eager to study English in a class. It has been a long time already that I wish I could study English but I didn’t have a chance like now.

The reason was my day off is every Tuesday instead of Sunday and I was not allowed to take day off on Sunday by the factory which I have been working for. Fortunately, the factory has made a day off to everyone on Sunday and I was very happy. I was happier than others because it was the same time which the English class was started. After I have joined the class for 3 months, I am in a bad fortune again because the factory announced again that there is no more day off every Sunday. So, I asked permission to take a day off on Sunday to my leader but the leader has not given a specific answer yet. Despite the challenges, I have decided to study until the end.

The reasons I am joining the class are firstly, to be a successful person in my future and secondly, some of my colleagues used to look down on me as an illiterate person.  Finally, I want to receive a course completed certificate. The English class is quite useful for me. I have been learning new vocabularies in my class.

 

I was a shy person before but now I am confident and believe in myself. Before, I thought I was not good but after I joined my English class my mind has changed. I become a person who has confidence and courage to stay strong for the rest of my life. I wish I could study in online diploma course from ACU (Australian Catholic University).  That’s my dream but I don’t know where and how to start and get in the course. At least now I have started with Basic English class.

Finally, I would like to thanks to all teachers and people who have been supporting this program to happen.

Stories of Hope: Marist Asia Foundation Annual Report 2018

As we reach the end of the year we share our achievements and thanks to all our Friends and Supporters.

We hope you enjoy seeing the joy in the smiles of the students. The hope in the eyes of our young graduates. The love your support has given and grown here in the Burmese Migrant Community of Ranong.
Download: 2018 Marist Asia Foundation Narrative Report
Download: 2018 Marist Asia Foundation Annual Report.

Migrant Stories of Hope: “They made fun of her and called her HIV Girl”

Aye Chan May is 17 years old. She is an orphan. Both her parents died with AIDS-related death when she was 3 years old. Her aunt looked after her but needed to go to another province for work. The aunt asked her neighbour to look after the child and promised that she would send money for support. They never heard from the aunt after she left Ranong.

The family had a difficulty to continue to look after and support her. Aye Chan May got sick and was infected with TB. She tested positive with HIV. The family was not able to look after her very well. She was not cared for and her health got worse.

Ma Aye, one of our patients, found her suffering and needing much care and the love of a mother. She felt concern and pity on her so she took her home and adopted her as her own child. She cared for her, supported her and raised her as part of her family. She sent her to study at Thai school.

It had been very difficult for Aye Chan May to be discriminated even by her classmates at school. They even made fun of her and called her ‘HIV girl’. The foster mother consoled her and encouraged her to be just strong and not to be discouraged.

Ma Aye approached the Marist Health Team at the hospital and introduced Aye Chan May to the team. The health team went for a regular visit, gave nutrition support and made follow-up for their medication and treatment. Aye Chan May got better and became more confident as she grew up.

They felt that they were emotionally supported by the Marist health team. They had been stigmatized and discriminated by neighbours. The foster mother became more involved with the Self-Help group organized by the Marist health team every month. Both of them seemed happy and stronger as a family.

However, another test came to their lives. Aye Chan May grew up as teenager. It was getting difficult for the foster mother to discipline her. Aye Chan May became more uncontrollable. It became a struggle in the family. Aye Chan May went away, left her foster mother and followed the aunt to another province to find some work.

The foster mother and the health team had lost her contact. Aye Chan May did not get on with the aunt and she went away with her boyfriend in another province. She could not come for her regular medical appointment. They were worried and concern about her well-being and safety.

After one year, she was able to contact one of our staff through social networking. She was able to connect with us secretly and able to ask for help. Sadly what had happened ws that she was locked up by the family of her boyfriend who made her a slave. She worked the whole day and night without pay, she could not go out from the workplace. She had been a victim of human trafficking.

The Marist health team was able to rescue her with the help of the Thai Immigration Police and Catholic Social Action. Aye Chan May came back safely to her foster mother. The foster mother received her with back with much gratefulness and joy. The lost adopted daughter had reconciled again with her foster mother who was waiting for her to come back.

Aye Chan May was lost but now found. She was able to gain back her health. She was reconciled again with her foster mother. She felt and realized that she is accepted and she is loved. She is now safe back in Myanmar.

Migrant Stories of Hope: On weekdays I work until 12am.. I often get sleepy in class

Hello, my name is Wai Yan Naing, I am 16 years old and I am studying year 4 at MAF.

I was born in Thailand and I moved to Myanmar when I was 5 years old, I studied there till grade 3. Then my parents brought me back to Thailand to live on a rubber plantation where my family works.

My mother heard that there was a migrant learning centre in Ranong but there was no transport from the plantation so I stayed at home that

year. The year after that I sat the entrance test for MAF, when I came to sit the exam I was by myself and I had no friends or any lunch to eat.

I was accepted into Year 1 and I was able to find transport to get to MAF. To come to school I need to wake up at 5am, the local bus comes to pick me up at 6am and then I need to get off and wait for the MAF school bus. I arrive at school at 8:40am and school starts at 8:45am. It is very busy, then I finish at 3:30pm and just like in the morning I need to take 2 buses to get home. When I get home I take a rest for 30 minutes then I begin to help my parents.

On the weekdays I have to work on the rubber plantation until 12am, then I come back to sleep, but my older brother and father continue to work on the plantation. During class time I always feel sleepy and sometimes I fall asleep but my teachers always understand.

My first two years at school I didn’t communicate much with the other students and didn’t have many friends. I was very shy and afraid to talk but now I’m friends with everyone at MAF.

As year 4 are the oldest students, we have a responsibility to be the leaders of the school. In the morning my duty is a flag leader, this means I have to lead the school in raising the flag and singing the Thai national anthem.

When it’s lunch time I go to the library and clean up the books or read. Usually only girls read books at lunch time so I make friends with a lot of them, they all call me brother, uncle, or grandfather because I was born with some grey hairs.

At school I try and stay happy and make jokes with my friends even though I am always tired from working. My English teachers always asks “Are you okay Wai Yan Naing?” I often get sleepy.

My ambition is to be educated as much as I can and earn a lot of money for my family, I want them to spend the rest of their life peaceful and happy.

My biggest wish is that everyone is happy and always smiling, especially my friends. I don’t want anyone else to cry because of my mistakes or jokes. I hope that whoever is reading this has a smile on their face.