When you have your health you have everything

Marist Asia Foundation began HIV Health work in the Migrant Town of Ranong in 2007. Migrants living with HIV AIDS are among the most abandoned in the community. Often abandoned by family, discriminated against at work and in the community, they tend to live in very difficult conditions. Here is a story about one of our patients.

We found a very sick lonely man in hospital. Thiha is his name. We approached him and introduced our organization and our service to him. We visited him in his place where he lived alone in a very old small hut near the sea. It was an awful place to live. There were many rubbish and plastic bottles around. His little hut was broken and the roof needed replacement. We supported and gave him nutrition and we followed up his medication closely. We helped prepared his food for he had no strength to do by himself.

In the very beginning, there was nobody who wanted to go near him. He did not have any family or relatives around. Through our support and care, he was getting better. He gained back his health and was able to work again. People in his neighbourhood became aware about his status and they also accepted his HIV status.

He was also able accept himself as HIV positive and was able to live with it. He looked after himself, attended his medical appointments in the hospital and took his medication regularly. He was very grateful to the Health Team for the patience to assist him and support him from the beginning. It took sometime to gain back his health and his self-confidence.

The health team journeyed with him for quite a long time through education on HIV and encouraged him to participate in the self-help group. In the long run, he responded well to the advice and assistance of the team. He was able to relate well with neighbors. He was able to communicate with his children and invited his elder son to come in Ranong to visit him. He became an active member in the Self-help group and shared his successful experience to the new patients which inspired and encouraged them.

He is currently working as labourer at saw mill company in Ranong. He lives a balanced and healthy life. He became an independent patient who can sustain and support himself and he now sends money back to Myanmar to support the education of his daughter.

As he shared with the Health team, there is one thing that he learnt in his life: “when you have your health, you have everything.” It was very true for the health team to help him restore his health which helped him to be able to reintegrate with his neighbour, with his friends and especially with his family. It made him whole again.

 

I never give up because my Father supports me

My name is Thin Thin San and I’m 18 years old. I was born on 14th June 2001 at Yangon, Myanmar. Now, I live in Ranong, Thailand with my father and mother. I’m an only child for my Mum and Dad. We left Myanmar in 2011 because my family has had a lot of problems with working and money. We are not a rich family that’s why we have come to Ranong.

When I was in Ranong, I didn’t study for one year because my parents didn’t have a job and we were only focused on our livelihood.

When I started my school, I had a lot of trouble with Thai subject because I have never studied Thai before. However, I got help from my new friends and Thai teacher to be good at Thai subject and language.

I had one teacher who named Sayar U Thi Ha who knew my education skills and always believed in me. He is a perfect teacher who has graduated from Australia Catholic University (ACU).

When I was nearly finishing Grade– 3, Sayar U Thi Ha said that “you need to go and study at Marist Asia Foundation (MAF) which is the school that can make your education better than here”.

Fortunately, I passed an entrance exam and started a Year – 1 class with my new friends. So, I became a high – school student. However, being a high – school student was very hard for me. I failed two or three subjects at every exam when I did in Year – 1.

I studied hard every night after I have this experience and my learning became better and better every year. I came to understand what education is and how it is important for me. To have a better education will give me confidence everywhere. When I think about my future to my Dad, he always said “don’t worry about your future, it will be fine, you got me and I will never let you be a person who loses education and future”.

My mother couldn’t work because she has a problem with her health. So, only my father work and find money for my study, for our livelihood and for my mother healthcare. Marist Asia Foundation (MAF) where I was studying always helped me with school fees. The fees were 300 Baht for every month but I needed to pay only 150 Baht because the teacher understands my family life.

My home was very far from school so I had a problem with transport until now. I have had many problems especially money problems but I have never given up because my father was always supporting me.

After I finished Year – 4 successfully, I worked as a teacher at Ban Maria Learning Centre who taught KG – 2. When I worked as a teacher, I got a lot of experience. I studied English harder because I knew that English is the most important language in the world. The other reason was that I really wanted to join Australia Catholic University (ACU). It was my first dream and for my parents.

I have worked to find money for my parents before I became a university student as much as I could. When I wasn’t doing well at my studies, my father said “focus on your learning only. The reason why I still living in Ranong is because of your education. Everything I doing right now is for you and I have only you”. English was a very difficult subject for me but I always tried to do the best. I was always thinking that my parents will be proud of me one day.

Over the years, the money problems in my family haven’t become easier. I was not really wanting to continue my learning and I wanted to work but my father didn’t allow me. Then, my father really wanted me to join ACU. We spent a lot of money to join ACU. I did a visa and Myanmar ID card because I could not join if I didn’t have a visa. It cost more than 10,000 Baht to get a visa.

Finally, I could join ACU, I could go anywhere, I could do anything that I want because of my father. Luckily, I passed the ACU entrance exam. My parents were very proud of me and I was very excited to be a university student. I have simple dreams. After I finish ACU, I want to be a teacher again to share my knowledge and skills for Burmese Migrant Children. I really want to join Marist Asia Foundation (MAF) team. My big dream is to support Burmese Migrant People who have adversity in Ranong because I have also experienced that.

My Parents always protect my education

 

My name is Htet Htet Ei and I’m (14) years old. I don’t have any sisters or brothers. I was born on 1 March 2005. I lived in Dawei, Myanmar. I moved to Kawthaung when I was in Grade Three because my family’s co-worker abused our family business of selling ice-balls and we had to sell our house and move to Kawthaung to stay at a friend’s house.

In this house, the business was selling flowers. My parents had to help with their work. My parents enrolled me at Kawthaung School. My parents always protect my education no matter how bad the life situation is. We moved to another place in Kawthaung because we had some problems.

During that time, my father had been working on the fishing boats for six months. We were faced with many challenges. My father sent us 1000 baht ($50NZ) each month. I also had to move school near to the place where we lived. Then our family migrated to Ranong, Thailand. We lived in Soi-Samaki, Ranong and I studied in grade four at Soi-Samaki MLC.

My father changed boats and he came back home once a month at his new boat’s work. My mother had health problems and heart disease. While my mother was sick, I had to take care of the house before going to school. That time, I was only 10 years old. My father’s old boss called my father to work and our lives were a little bit easier.

I did the entrance exam of Marist Asia Foundation and I passed the exam. I know the reputation of this school from my friends. I joined this school in 2016 when I was (12) years old. My father had to work hard for our family.

In 2017, when I was in Year 2, my father broke his leg due to an accident on the boat. I visited him and slept at the hospital with my family. While my father was in the hospital, my mother also had an accident with her hand. After one month, my father was getting better but my mother was getting worse.

Now, I am in Year 4 class. I am very happy to study in this school. Our school is very good. Our school doesn’t force us to pay the tuition fee. We can pay when our family is ready. Our school also teaches about computers but other Learning Centers don’t.

My dream is to complete the education in Marist Asia Foundation. The teachers are very generous and they encourage us when we are sad and discouraged. The school provides transportation to go to school without any difficulties. The teachers take care of us when we are sick and provide medicine or clinic visits for us.

I am happy for the support to Marist Asia Foundation and I hope many people will support our school.

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.