By Stephanie Brown, Marketing and Communication Manager CUFA
On October 5, the world celebrated World Teacher’s Day, a UNESCO supported day that recognises the work of teachers, the world over in educating future generations. The theme for 2013 was “a call for teachers”. Since teachers are the most powerful force for equity, access and quality education, a call for teachers means calling for quality education for all. In mid-2013, CUFA’s Myanmar Teachers Project commenced with the mission to help students in poor communities in the Shan State of Myanmar get a quality education. CUFA’s Stephanie Brown shares a story of how the Teachers Project will change the lives of teachers and their students.
In a small community located in the Shan region of Myanmar, a teacher begins her lesson for the day. In a classroom consisting of students aged between 10 and 16 years old, she starts the day with a history lesson. The class, who are eager and interested in learning, listen attentively as they know they are lucky to be getting an education at all.
The Shan State, located in the eastern part of Myanmar is a poor region that has felt the effects of the 60 years of civil unrest following the nation’s independence in 1948. People in this village are largely rice farmers, and many grow other crops for subsistence use only. Many in this village live on less than $2 a day and are largely dependent on the generosity of the community and their local Buddhist temple for support. There is very little opportunity for people in the region and the level of education is low due to its unaffordability.
Nang Nam Leng* has been a teacher for eight years. She teaches in the local Buddhist temple in a make-shift school created by the Buddhist monks to help provide the children in the community that cannot afford to attend state run schools, with the opportunity to get an education.
“I am happy being a teacher and get great satisfaction from the job. It pays less but it is great to teach in my own community. I can see growth in my community and the children are very respectful and hardworking”, she says. Despite loving her position, she struggles on her salary consisting of donations from her poor community.
“There is a problem to do with salary; it is not enough for me and my family as well.” She says of the pay situation.
Teachers Mutual Bank, QT Mutual Bank and Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank are working with CUFA to help teachers stay motivated in their job through a sustainable project titled the Myanmar Teachers Project.
“Rather than simply giving the teachers extra money, the Myanmar Teachers Project provides a sustainable solution that will also benefit the whole community.” Chief Executive Officer, Peter Mason said.The Myanmar Teachers Project began following a visit from CUFA’s Chief Executive Officer, Peter Mason to CUFA’s projects in Myanmar. Whilst engaging with the Buddhist monks the problem surrounding payment of an adequate salary to teachers arose. As a result of the low salary, teachers were often required to seek employment elsewhere in order to make ends meet, to the detriment of their students.
Myanmar Teachers Project places funds into the loan pool in the local credit unions run by the Buddhist monks, which increases the availability of loans for the community. Part of the interest paid on the loan will then be shared amongst the 157 teachers. This project ensures that everyone in the community benefits and is given the opportunity to better their living standards.
The project officially started in mid-2013 and has been met with great enthusiasm by both the teachers and the local community who can now access finance to improve their quality of life.
[The project] can support my salary and I will be able to stay in my job teaching. I will also be able to use the money to purchase more useful teaching tools to improve the quality of teaching to the children” Nang Nam Leng said of how the project will change her life.
The Myanmar Teachers Project will run over three years and is partly funded by the generosity of Teachers Mutual Bank, QT Mutual Bank and Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank. It will benefit 157 teachers who currently educate 5,495 students.Nang Nam Leng would like to see her school grow and see all the children in her village receive an education. She thinks that the Myanmar Teachers Project will help encourage parents to keep their children in school.“Many parents are forced to take their children out of school to help on the farm. I think if teachers are better financially supported and able to stay in their jobs teaching then the quality of the education will increase and parents will then see the benefits of keeping their children in school.” Nang Nam Leng shared.
*Alias to protect the identity of the teacher