Toungoo Situation Update: Thandaunggyi Township, June to August 2016

The following Situation Update was received by KHRG in August 2016. It was written by a community member in Toungoo District who has been trained by KHRG to monitor human rights conditions. It is presented below translated exactly as originally written, save for minor edits for clarity and security.[1] This report was received along with other information from Toungoo District, including one incident report, eight interviews and 192 photographs.[2]

I [KHRG community member] have collected the information about human rights abuses [events] happening in Thandaunggyi Township, Toungoo District during the period between June 2016 and August 2016, including education, healthcare, livelihoods, development projects and military activities.

Education

While the previous [before the preliminary ceasefire agreement[3]] Burma/Myanmar government military [Tatmadaw] was operating [controlling] in the east of Thout Yay Ket village, Thandaunggyi Township, about 30 villages were ruined [because of forced relocation]. Now the villagers are trying to rebuild their villages to live. The villagers wanted to send their children to school. Therefore, they have tried to construct self-funded schools. Among 18 villages, the villagers have been able to build three schools for the local children. The villagers also had to hire teachers to teach children at the school. One teacher received 300,000 Kyat [per year] [US $222.41][4] funded by the villagers. Karen Education Department [KED] also supported the teachers with 200,000 Kyat [US $148.27]. Although KED contributed text books and some class materials and support materials to the school, the students did not have enough note books and pencils.

These villages are migrant villages [villages which were forcibly relocated] which are now controlled by Karen National Union [KNU]. There is a middle school at the Township level which was established by KNU government in their controlled area but there are some difficulties for children to attend this middle school. The [local] education department of Burma/Myanmar government has never donated any books or pencils to the schools in KNU controlled area. Many children in those migrant villages could not go to the school. Some children are getting old enough to go to school but they are unable to attend the school because of many different reasons. In some villages, there is still no primary school.[5] The local villagers in these villages wanted to build self-funded primary schools for children but they could not afford to hire school teachers to teach their children. Therefore, they have not constructed those schools.

Some parents in the village sent their children to the Burma/Myanmar government’s primary school in Section (1), Thandaunggyi Town. [During the reporting period] Naw[6] A—, the headmistress, called students’ parents to attend a meeting. Then, she requested the parents to donate one or two zinc sheets for each student in order to rebuild the roof of the school. In addition to this, if the school teachers have to travel or move [to another school], the headmistress tries to collect 500 or 1,000 kyat [$0.32 or $0.74] from each student to support those school teachers. Additionally, the local villagers in some villages could not send their children to the school because they do not have any schools in their villages. Some parents want their children to stay at their relatives’ houses [in other villages/towns] in order to attend a school. There is also the situation that some parents had to make their children leave the school because of their livelihood challenges.

The students do not need to pay school fees at the Burma/Myanmar government schools. At middle school or high school, the students have to pay for text books. The parents have to buy note books for their children. For the primary school, the students could have text books and note books for free but they do not receive adequate note books; their parents have to buy [additional] note books for them if necessary. Moreover, the school contributes one school uniform set per student per year at the primary school. The school teachers often called students’ parents for a school meeting and they told the parents about what the school needs. Then, they asked and collected money from the parents for a school fund. The teachers also collected money from the parents in order to get funds when they celebrated their prize-giving ceremony at the school. Each parent had to pay 5,000 kyat [US $3.70] to the primary school (#2) in Thandaung Myo Thit Town in order to provide food for everyone who attend the prize-giving ceremony.

The school in the village also often collects money from the parents in the same way in order to get a school fund. If the teacher has to move from the village to another place, the school teachers collect 500 kyat or 1,000 kyat [$0.32 to $0.72] from each student to support that teacher. Some teachers are not willing to go and teach the children at the school which is situated in the remote area because it is too far for them to travel to the school. It causes a problem for the students [as they do not have enough teachers]. Some [Burma/Myanmar government] teachers submitted a letter to their education administrator in order [to gain permission] to leave the school in the [remote] village. That is why the school in the village does not have enough teachers. Two female high school teachers from the high school in Thandaung Myo Thit Town, Thandaunggyi Township, Toungoo District, have also moved on to another place. Therefore, the headmaster in that high school in Thandaung Myo Thit Town called students’ parents for a meeting and he told the parents that they have to hire two other high school teachers. He also said that each student has to pay 1,000 kyat [$0.72] to hire the new teachers.

There are more than 150 students who are studying in Standard 10[7] at the high school in Thanduang Myo Thit Town. However, the students had to employ their own teachers to teach them. Each student had to pay 1,000 kyat [$0.74] for one teacher [per month]. For two teachers, they had to pay 2,000 kyat [$1.48] per month. [These additional fees] caused a problem to some students’ parents. There are some schools in the Burma/Myanmar government’s controlled area but the Burma/Myanmar government did not hire enough teachers for the school. It became difficult for students to study in the school. The Burma/Myanmar government said that they have given an opportunity to learn Karen language at the schools in Karen State. In reality, they have not prioritised Karen literature in the school. The teachers just have to teach Karen language in their free time but not during school time.

The [Karen language] school teachers do not get salaries so therefore there will be no teacher who teaches Karen language during this [school] time. Some teachers in some villages try to teach the children Karen language one hour per day although they do not get any salary. They teach [for free] because they want the children in the village to be able read and write Karen language. It is expected that the children at nursery school [from Standard 1 to Standard 4] should learn Karen language. The primary school must be opened officially [by the Burma/Myanmar government] in the village but the school teachers do not receive their salaries officially [by the Burma/Myanmar government because villagers must pay them]. Therefore, the local villagers have to hire school teachers. In some villages, the villagers could hire school teachers but they could not build the school. So they have to build the school according to the village head’s plan. [Hiring the teachers] causes problem to the villagers regarding their [economic] livelihoods.

Regarding the situation of education and the building of the school in Thay Ywar You village which is located in the east of Thauk Yay Hkat Chaung village, Thandaunggyi Township, Toungoo District, the Burma/Myanmar government controlled-area, the school teachers are not allowed to teach students for private tuition but some teachers do teach students for private tuition and they ask 35,000 Kyat [US $25.95] per month from each student for the [private] tuition fee. Some teachers ask 7,000 Kyat [US $5.19] for only one subject from one student [per month]. Due to this private tuition, the school teachers seem to care about the students who are learning in their private tuition but they just ignore the rest of the students [during school time].

There is a teacher, U[8] B—, who teaches students at the high school in Thanduang Town. U B— also teacesh students who want to learn in his private tuition classes. He asks 300,000 Kyat [US $222.41] per year from students who study in 8th Standard, 400,000 Kyat [US $296.55] per year from students who study in 9th Standard, and 600,000 Kyat [US $444.83] per year from students who study in 10th Standard. There are many students who could not learn in those private tuition classes because they could not pay the tuition fees. The teaching in the school is not very effective and it is beneficial to learn in the private tuition classes because teachers teach well in private tuition.

The subject U B— is teaching in the school is Mathematics which is very difficult for students. Thus, students [who study in his private tuition] understand very well but the rest of the students [who do not study in his private tuition] do not understand Mathematics subject very well. Moreover, U B— cruelly scolds the students when he is teaching in the class. In one incident, on August 11th 2016, U B— challenged a male student from A— Standard as his enemy. Regarding this case, the students commented that, “This teacher is totally different from other teachers. The way he teaches [treats] the students is not suitable with the purpose [job role] of Burma/Myanmar government staff [teachers]”.

The Burma/Myanmar government said that they are trying to support students who are poor. So they collected a list of the students [who are poor]. Although a small number of really poor students have been on the list, most of the students on the list are the children of Burma/Myanmar government staff. In reality, some parents who could not buy any shoes for their children are not on the list.

Also, when the students go to the school in the town, they have to cross the street in the town. So they face some danger because there are many cars and motorbikes in the street. That is why they need to have a traffic policeman to take care of those children. Motorbike accidents often happened in Pyar Sa Khen village, Thandaunggyi Township, Toungoo District. In some cases, students have died because of these motorbike accidents. Therefore, it is dangerous for students when they go to their school.

Download this update in English HERE.

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