UWS has been operating in Myanmar since 2013, and since 2014 we have been building and supporting community schools in the Shan State.
Having begun with the development of five schools in the Pekon Township, in 2015 UWS began the development of schools in our second hub in the Tachileik Township of Eastern Shan.
We found this new cluster of villages near the Thailand border and identified seven villages that – after thorough research and community visits – were confirmed to be a good fit for the UWS model. They were home to around 2000 children with no school to attend; the need for schools was great, the poverty extreme.
UWS Kyar Tear Toe Bo School and UWS Naung Kyant School began development in July 2015. We subsequently moved on to the villages of Wein Wa, Hway Air and Saing Khun, and continue to develop schools in Tachileik.
By building on the success of the 2014 UWS Myanmar School Development Projects, UWS has transformed these areas of significant educational poverty. In total we have 12 schools active in Myanmar, with further schools in development for 2017. With the successful development of the UWS Myanmar Team, led by UWS Myanmar Country Manager Dr Kay Kaing Whin, we are confident that we can build on our current Myanmar projects, and bring education to even more remote and marginalised communities.
New challenges face the UWS Myanmar team every day, but remoteness is a challenge UWS are well acquainted with. We teach the unreached. We work in some of the poorest and most remote regions in the world to improve educational opportunities for children who need them most. In Myanmar, even to visit the remote areas we work in, an application needs to be made to the state authorities; a business visa is essential.
Myanmar has recently suffered widespread political repression and ethnic conflict and remains one of the world’s poorest countries. Over recent years Myanmar has dramatically changed; it is a country in political transition. Consequently, formalising our relationship with the autonomous Shan State government and local education system is all the more important. UWS have met with the Minister of Education for the Shan State, who has endorsed our work and given us the licence to operate.
These are just some of the day-to-day challenges that UWS faces when teaching the unreached. Nonetheless, UWS remains determined to transform the futures of some of the country’s poorest communities.
Forming the eastern shore of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, Myanmar is the largest country in mainland South East Asia and has three mountain ranges running north-to-south from the Himalayas. These mountain chains divide Myanmar’s three river systems, the Irrawaddy, Salween and Sittang Rivers, which supports a rich ecosystem. Myanmar has historically been an agricultural economy, although this can be expected to diversify in the coming decades.
Myanmar has recently suffered widespread political repression and ethnic conflict and remains one of the world’s poorest countries. Over recent years Myanmar has dramatically changed. The November 2010 elections marked the beginning of a remarkable process of political and economic liberalisation in the country.
Yet fundamental challenges remain. In a region containing some of the fastest growing economies in the world, Myanmar has widespread poverty and vulnerability. According to UNDP, a quarter of the population do not have enough money to meet their basic food and living needs and the country is off track to reach many of the Millennium Development Goals including that of education.
10% of children in the country, about 400,000, have no school to attend. Just 1% of Myanmar’s GDP is spent on education, less than almost any other nation in the world. Myanmar also suffers amongst the highest rates of malaria, malnutrition (especially amongst children) and tuberculosis in the world.
The impact of decades of conflict includes human rights abuses, severe poverty and displacement is significent. An estimated half a million people are still internally displaced in eastern Myanmar alone, and 140,000 continue to live in refugee camps in Thailand. The agricultural sector, once the rice basket of the region, and still the main source of income for 70% of the population, remains unproductive, uncompetitive and low value, with over 15 million people dependent on seasonal, non-farm work which is inadequate year-round.