We had a whopping 69 student’s register, 22 of which were new students. We expect to have about 15 more register the first day of school as families are still in Myanmar for summer break
North Andaman Network Foundation (NAN) staff and the Foundation for Education and Development (FED) headed out to register students for the upcoming Semester and to give out informational brochures explaining to parents and students the benefits of getting an education at the Andaman Center, which includes receiving certificated curriculums in Thai, Burmese and also English from volunteers provided by Andaman Discoveries. For migrant populations, this is crucial as families often times move back to Myanmar or settle in Thailand, education at the Andaman Center allows students to integrate into either countries education system. FED aids in support by providing letters of reference, curriculum vitae’s and documentation for students. FED also gave full explanations of how to get to school, along with addressing parents concerns about immigration status and student safety.
We were also accompanied by the amazing Yin Mon Myint, head teacher at the Learning Center. Yin is an enthusiastic ambassador; she rides the school bus with the kids and has done the student surveys for the last 5 years. I think the community recognizes her and trusts her.
We surveyed three main areas based on the family’s current occupation. At the Kuraburi Pier we have 47 registered students, including 15 new students. Most of the children’s fathers work on commercial fishing boats; and the mothers work at the pier drying fish, selling snacks, and cleaning - hard work for not a lot of money. For example the women make only 2.5 THB (.07 USD) for one sheet of dried shrimp. Families at the pier also have to pay for rent in substandard housing. In the rural plantations and shrimp farms surrounding Kuraburi (Soi Nang Yoen, Soi Sang Tong, Bang Wa) we have 22 registered students , of which 7 are new students. Parent occupations (both mothers and fathers) were predominantly in harvesting rubber and oil palm, along with menial labor in shrimp plantations, construction, lumber factories, pet food factories, and ice factories. Children are expected to take care of the household so the parents can both work.
It was also helpful to gather updated family profiles to get a better understanding of parents intentions for sending their children to the Andaman Center. Parent interviews revealed that reasons for sending their kids to school included learning to read and write Thai - this is not available in Thai government school. Three of our new students were in Thai government school last year, but are now transferring to the Learning Center to learn to read and write Burmese.
The second most common reason for enrolling was that parents want their children to have a livelihood that is less difficult and demeaning than manual labor. The main example given was learning English to work in tourism or business. English is taught at the center by Western volunteers provided by Andaman Discoveries. To help the students and parents continue to reach these goals after students graduate from the BLC, FED has a continued education program based out of Khao Lak that allows students to continue their education past the 8th grade and also trains them in the occupation of tourism hospitality, helping students to get jobs in local restaurants and hotels. Many kids do not attend school, and we often speak to them during the survey. When we asked why parents cannot send their kids to school, the majority replied that the economy is not very good right now and a migrant worker can make an average of 320THB (10 USD) a day, so the more people that work in the family, the more money is made. We try and explain that it is beneficial to think long-term and the life benefits of receiving an education allow children to begin setting up a plausible future. With continued outreach and education with families, we hope that we can shift this shirt-term mindsetJ
We also encountered very mature children as some registered on their own since their parents were at work when we visited. One new student (Su Su Kai, 8 years old, detailed in the attached student profiles) said she wanted to go to school but the only way to go would be to bring her young sister, 3 years old, with her since she has to take care of her during the day when her parents work.
It becomes clear as we visit families that the safe and clean atmosphere at the Burmese Learning Center is a well deserved and needed break for these students who live in slum like conditions that are often times not very sanitary, especially as the monsoon season approaches. The center is a positive outlet for students to envision a brighter future for themselves!