By Stephanie Brown, Marketing and Communication Manager CUFA And
By Kundi Lay, International Projects Supervisor CUFA
Each morning, 28 year-old schoolteacher, Nang rides her motorbike to work. The thirty minute ride to the local Buddhist Temple enables her to get to school easily and quickly where she will teach thirty primary school children from her community. Nang has been teaching for nine years.
Nang teaches in a community located in the Shan State of Myanmar, formerly Burma. The community that Nang lives and works in is very small with a population of no more than a few hundred. Majority of people are employed in farming and agriculture, and almost all in the village grow rice. Life is simple.
Nang, like all teachers teaching in the Buddhist temples, works on a voluntary basis and is paid through donations made by her poor community. She often has to supplement her income by working in other jobs, which affects her ability to provide a quality education to the children of her community.
In Nang’s community, education is highly regarded however few can afford to send their children to school every day in local government run schools. To assist these families, the local Buddhist monks began operating schools in the temples to ensure the children of the community have access to an education.
CUFA has been partnering with the Buddhist network in the Shan State since 2011. Whilst visiting CUFA’s projects in Myanmar, CUFA’s Chief Executive Officer, Peter Mason learned of the issue that the Buddhist network were having with paying teachers and keeping them employed in their schools. In order to address this problem, CUFA started the Myanmar Teachers Project which is proudly funded by Teachers Mutual Bank, QT Mutual Bank and Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank.
CUFA specialises in developing communities by providing them with access to affordable financial services. CUFA’s partnership with the local Buddhist network was established to assist their local credit unions. CUFA provide technical assistance to financial cooperatives, such as the credit unions in Nang’s community, to ensure they run effectively and efficiently so they can better serve their communities and help lift them out of poverty. The Myanmar Teachers Project offers a hand up to the entire community and not just the teachers by assisting the members of the local credit union, run through the temple.
Like many small rural towns in developing countries, Nang’s community does not have any access to any financial services where they can save and take out affordable loans and consequently the poverty cycle continues. CUFA, in collaboration with Teachers Mutual Bank, QT Mutual Bank and Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank are putting funds into the local credit union so that members have an increased loan pool to borrow from and better their livelihoods.
One member named Kham has recently taken out a loan so she can expand her vegetable farm and grow a variety of other fruits and vegetables. The loan has allowed her to also repair the holes in the roof of her house and she is also able to support her niece and send her to school each day. Part of the interest that Kham pays on her loan will go towards the teachers in the local school to help supplement their very small income.
Nang, the young teacher in the community, is also a member of her credit union and has been for three years. Being a member of her credit union has brought her many benefits, for example, a year ago she was granted a loan to buy a motorbike to drive to school. “By owning my own motorbike I am able to ride to work rather than walk. Walking used to take me one and half hours but now it takes only half hour.”
When asked what her thoughts on the Myanmar Teachers Project were, Nang said, “the program is special because it will help my community through loans. I will use the money I receive from the project to help my family and pay family expenses so I can keep teaching.”
When asked what she wants to see in the future, Nang responded,”I hope that in five year the children have learned well and there are many more schools and children able to come to school.”
CUFA’s Myanmar Teachers Project is jointly funded by Teachers Mutual Bank, QT Mutual Bank and Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank.