Getting conflict-affected children back to schoolPublished: Nov 15, 2022 Reading time: 4 minutes
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and 11 years of conflict in Kachin have affected tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) who have sought shelter in various camps across Kachin State. People in Need (PIN) and our local partner organisation, Diocesan Commission for Education (DCE-Banmaw), support quality education for children in need through Education in Emergencies (EiE) programmes in the most conflict-affected areas in Kachin State.
With financial support from the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund (MHF), PIN and DCE-Banmaw distributed student kits, provided home-based learning materials, and facilitated psychosocial support activities for more than 2,700 children in five IDPs camps and one host village in Bhamo district, Kachin State.
New academic year and new challenges to accessing education
In June 2022, children were supposed to return to school for the new academic year. However, many parents and caregivers faced financial crises and could not send their children back to school. At that time, PIN and DCE-Banmaw continued to support the educational needs of children between kindergarten (KG) and Grade 8.
Htang Nu (name changed), a mother of three school children who received support from PIN and DCE-Banmaw, showed her gratitude to PIN and our donor. “I have three children, in Grades 1, 4, and KG. I have no money to enrol my children in school, so I borrowed money to pay school registration fees. At the beginning of the school year, my children were sad about using old school equipment, which was quite damaged. Now, they are happy to wear new school backpacks and use books, pencils, and raincoats from the distribution.” With these educational materials, children can continue their learning.
Hkawng Hkawng (name changed), a 16-year-old, Grade 8 student studying at one of the IDP camps’ schools, dreams of becoming a doctor: “I love receiving student kits, such as backpack, raincoat, books, pens and other things. I am thankful I have them. I want to be a doctor and treat poor people in camps. That is why I study so hard to achieve my goal.” In addition to providing educational materials, children also receive psychosocial support activities to develop their social and emotional capacities and support their well-being.
Supporting teachers, parents, and schools
There are numerous challenges facing displaced and conflict-affected families and children, and access to quality education is one of the most urgent and critical needs. Volunteer teachers, educators, and parents play a key role in providing quality education to these children. Yet teachers and parents face many challenges; Lu Hpring (name changed), a headmistress of a school camp, expressed, “Most of the parents in the camps are earning money from daily labour at sugar cane farms, and some are returning to their land from which they fled to plant rice. Sugar cane farmers are losing profits and investments due to lingering border restrictions on exports to China, which have impacted the internally displaced people who can earn money from it.”
Lu Hpring shared concerns regarding enrollment, “Our school accepts kindergarten to Grade 9 students. Some school children experienced late entry into the school system because their parents could not save the money to send them to school. Ongoing conflicts, COVID and border closures have caused several challenges for the parents.”
Likewise, she adds, “despite the financial barriers, parents still face challenges to enrol in school. Most high school students drop out whether they fail or pass the matriculation exam. Parents cannot afford to send them back to school because they lack financial support. As all know, we live in a conflict-affected area with limited resources for better education.”
To help ease these tensions, PIN and DCE-Banmaw provide volunteer teacher incentives, teacher capacity-building training (including on teacher well-being practices), and positive parenting skills workshops to parents and caregivers. Through school improvement planning, education committees and others (including parents and community leaders) work together to define the needs of the schools (e.g., materials and resources, infrastructure needs, training, etc.) and receive funds to address what is most necessary.
Helping the most hard-to-reach children is essential
In Kachin, only “a few local aid organisations can access hard-to-reach areas,” says Gam Seng (name changed), a DCE-Banmaw project focal person. Under this project, and through People in Need’s leadership, providing educational support to the most hard-to-reach children has been possible. A holistic approach to education is needed, even in these areas. “That is why DCE-Banmaw and PIN aim to strengthen quality education,” including by training “local teachers and camp-based volunteer educators with the Teaching in Crisis Contexts (TiCC) and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) curricula” and providing activities that can help to “protect the children,” such psychosocial support activities and “parent [and caregiver] skills workshops.”
*The names of certain individuals and locations have been changed for their protection.