By Kyaw Zin Myo and Alison Darcy
Daw Shwe and other teachers in Lashio do not have to leave their village for work because of the great support from the Myanmar Teachers’ Project
Daw Shwe is a mother of three children and is a kindergarten teacher in Lashio, Myanmar. Located off the beaten track, Lashio is a bustling and picturesque market town surrounded by the Shan hills, and is the largest town in the Shan state of Myanmar.
Since 2013, Daw Shwe’s school has received support under the Myanmar Teachers’ Project, a program supported by Teachers Mutual Bank, Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank and QT Mutual Bank. The project aims to help teachers working and living in the Shan region of Myanmar by generating interest from funds provided to six financial institutions to increase their loan pools, which in turn contribute to the teachers’ salaries.
Speaking with CUFA’s Myanmar Country Program Manager, Kyaw Zin Myo, Daw Shwe explained that when she first started at the school it was in a very bad condition and many of the teachers were looking for other work.
“When I first started at the school there were not many children registered at the school, and the school was close to collapse. We didn’t have many resources and only a small number of children attended the school because of the low engagement from their parents to motivate them to study. Because the teachers did not receive regular payments and the low salaries were not enough to look after their families, many teachers were leaving to look for other work opportunities.
“The condition of the school and the fear of it closing down was a big worry for my family, especially for my children’s future. If the school closed down I would lose my job, need to go to the city to work as a labourer and would have to leave my very young children behind. It was a huge stress for not only my family but most of the other teachers because there are no jobs available in my village, just teaching.
“In 2013 my credit union, started working under CUFA’s Myanmar Teachers Project. Under the project the credit union works with CUFA and a network of Buddhist monks to support the income of teachers like myself. I feel really fortunate that we are supported under this project. I am very delighted and thankful that I do not have to leave my village, my family and my young children alone to find a job in the city
“Now that we receive a regular income, there’s been an increase in the dedication and commitment from the teachers, and rather than seeking other work, the teachers show passion towards their lessons. We are dedicated in providing an education for all children, and we make sure that every child in our community will come to school. Sometimes, teachers travel to poor families to pick up the children to bring them to school.
“We have also started a staff savings group. We created a team to support the credit union and in our free time promote membership, we go door-to-door and talk to the children’s parents to encourage them to open a savings account and to support the credit union and also promoted the credit union membership during the 67th Independence Day for the Republic Union of Myanmar, held on 4 January.
“As a mother I am now very proud that my son and daughter go to this school, I believe that the children are happy and learn more if the teachers are happy. I wish the Teachers Project success forever, because it’s helping teachers like myself financially and helps the teachers concentrate more on their work and have fewer worries about their living costs”.