A teacher, namely May Thae, never thought that teaching children would become illegal. Moreover, she said that she has never imagined that the teacher will be regarded as a criminal and has to teach in secret.
Mae Thae is a middle school teacher who joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). She is from Northern Shan State and currently, she is in hiding and teaching children furtively.
“I joined CDM whereas I keep on teaching my pupils via online. Even so, I have to teach them secretively. Right now, teaching is just like illegal business,” said teacher May Thae with sadness.
It is said, “Everyone has the right to education,” yet the teachers are being arrested.
After the coup d’état, the teachers kicked off joining the CDM against the junta, while others opted to remain non-CDMers.
The military group pressured and arrested CDMers , while the People’s Defense Forces also pressured Non-CDMers , and carried out competitive arrests.
Nway Oo Tha Pyay , a teacher in-charge of Doh Ayay which is known as a revolution group working on a research and awareness raising, underlined that education in this country has never been in good condition, and at present, the right to education and academic freedom are being severely violated and destroyed from all sides.
“Education has become a situation of being hijacked and education is like a rope that is being pulled from both sides which is about to break off in a tug of war in a drought-stricken region. It is a scene where education is being shot down. This is the ugly truth of the attempted coup,” teacher Nway Oo Tha Pyay explained the current situation.
The United Nations proclaimed on December 10, 1948, “Everyone has the right to education and the right to a minimum primary education free of charge,” It was certified as the Declaration of Human Rights, the rights that every human being should have and enjoy.
Nonetheless, the Military Council, including the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) and the ethnic armed forces in Myanmar have failed to comply with most of the commitments stated in the Declaration of Human Rights, the teachers pointed out.
After more than two years of the coup d’état, CDMers such as teacher May Thae have no more income, so they face many financial difficulties that lead to risk in continuing survival due to the relocation and hide-out.
That is why, teachers keep on teaching via online as a means to generate some income. Just when teaching seems to be going well, however, due to the persistent arrests of the military council, the CDMers face dismay.
“In an attempt to earn some income, I try to teach kids through online and at the same time we live in constant fear of being pursued and imprisoned by the junta. Yet, if I don’t teach, I won’t have any income”, noted the teacher May Thae.
While some CDMers have sought collaboration with National Unity Government (NUG) to continue their teaching, others have started their own online class. However, the military council is chasing and arresting all CDMers.
The military council has arrested 13 women and 2 men from Federal School of Aung Myay Tharr Zan in Mandalay, charged with illegal teaching by this year.
Ma May Thae commented that those who teach online were arrested due to the pro-military individuals in their area and causing them to exercise extreme caution in everything.
According to data compiled by the National Unity Government (NUG), there were nearly 400,000 academic staff nationwide in the last academic year (20019-2020) under the civilian government. However, after the military coup, nearly 250,000 academic staff joined the CDM movement.
According to the report of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) on September 19, 2022, 225 CDMers from the education sector have been detained since the coup d’état.
Amidst the junta’s relentless crackdown on teachers, some CDMers have become vendors for their living or some ran away to refuge in the liberated area or some fled to Laukkaing Township along the Sino-Myanmar border area or some fled to Thailand for work.
Moreover, after more than two years of the attempted coup, some CDMers from the education sector have changed to Non-CDMers, as commented by the people in the education sector.
“Now there are some people who have moved from CDMers to Non-CDMers. One of my friends, a teacher, has changed from CDMer to Non-CDMer. If you do CDM, you will be arrested by the military council. If you are Non-CDM, you can be detained by PDF and Ethnic Armed Organization (EAO),” emphasized by teacher Ma May Thae.
Ta’ang National Liberation Army based in Northern Shan State issued a statement earlier this year 2023, stating that starting from February to August, those who do not join the CDM will be punished.
Similarly, Non-CDM teachers from Sektaw Village in Bamauk Township faced arrest and punish, by the People’s Defense Force of Bamauk, Kachin State on 4th of April 2023.
“If Non-CDM teachers have no right to teach and only CDM teachers can teach kids, to what extent can the PDF protect against the danger of being arrested by the military council? At this moment, in the rural areas there are vast numbers of school closures due to the lack of school teachers’ ‘, noted one of the Non-CDM teachers from the educational field in Bamauk Township.
In internet accessible areas, online learning is easy, yet in some remote areas with limited connectivity are left no choice but to rely solely on the education staff.
“If the announcement is made where no Non-CDMers cannot teach, the children will have to learn non-formal adult education when they are getting older”, the teacher said.
“Regardless of being a CDM or Non-CDM, they are subject to arrest. And as a consequence, a generation may or will become uneducated. Over the past 3 years, the children have been deprived of education and right now they don’t have the right to learn, either. So the literacy rate among children could plummet,” she continued.
Nway Oo Tha Pyay from Doh Ayay Group said,“whether he or she is the CDM teacher or Non-CDM teacher, the educational sector seems to be much more targeted than other governmental sectors. During this period, many teachers have been arrested and imprisoned and ruthlessly killed.”
In the wake of recent despicable act of terrorism -targeting, arresting, attacking, killing and terrorizing to those subjected as soft targets- unarmed and defenseless teachers, students, parents and grandparents are arrested and attacked and killed by the name of politics and waging wars and it is indeed a fault conception, she went on remarking.
“Education is a public service and it should be remembered that no one can prohibit it. Nobody is sure how long this revolution will last. The future of the country and the future of millions of children deprived of a free education are inseparable conditions during this turbulent period. Here, the dignity of human beings needs to be considered and supported,” she criticized.
She said that there are millions of children and youth from the grassroots level who are below the poverty line and do not have access to alternative education in Myanmar.
The lives of millions of out-of-school children inaccessible to the right of education could make a worse turn and scenario in this crisis of time, teachers commented.
So, teacher Nway Oo called for a comprehensive reconsideration of education policies, highlighting the importance of providing schooling for children even amidst armed conflict. She stressed that the fundamental principles should be prioritized in the name of the protection of education in all circumstances.
The majority of Myanmar’s education sector and educational staff are women and also the majority of those who have been arrested and killed are women.
The teachers stressed that the attack on teachers, particularly women, who are unarmed, defenseless in rural areas and from grassroots communities are women and it is, in fact, a form of gender-based violence.
She continued that education is a sector where women are subjected to suffer double or triple marginalization in this patriarchy society. Besides it is necessary to bring back justice for these crimes, and must fight against male chauvinism at the same time.
“In my opinion, both CDM and Non-CDM teachers should be granted permission to teach the children freely. Education plays a crucial role for every human being and it is also vital for the future of the youth. If we are making such comparative acts, it will only affect the rural children,” May Thae pointed out.