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Students without a university

Asia | Religion & Education

20-year-old Naw Nyone, who resettled in Minnesota, USA, in early 2011, said she grew up dreaming of becoming a prominent Burmese politician as she studied books on politics in the camps.  But once in the U.S., she couldn’t continue her education because of her work in a factory, where she earns between 80 to 100 US dollars per day.              

Saw Eh Doh Wah, head of media and advocacy for the Karen Teachers Working Group, a non-profit organization in northern Thailand, said that a few children do receive Open Society Institute (OSI) scholarships. Even these fortunate kids then face TOEFL tests and must obtain documents such as passports in order to get access into a university. 

The civil war has displaced 450,000 civilians - the majority children and youth - in eastern and southeastern Burma, according to the TBBC report.  In northern Burma, clashes that broke out in June, 2011, between the government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) have displaced an additional 60,000 ethnic Kachins.

Mai Li Awng, spokesperson for relief group Wun Tawng Ningtwey (Light for Kachin People), said that hundreds of students in Kachin State have not attended classes since schools were shut down due to the hostilities between the government and KIA troops.  The government's own Myanmar National Human Rights Commission estimates 7,872 Kachin students have been affected.

As civil wars drag on in Burma, they victimize hundreds of thousands. For decades, the suffering population has lived in fear and poverty while their children lose their futures. The TBBC studied 14 townships in rural areas in eastern and east southern Burma and found that 63 percent of households are unable to meet their basic needs.  

Bway Gay Thein Maung observed, “As a stateless people, we don’t have dignity. Other people don’t respect us. Our education system is not recognized.”

A young Karen refugee Grag Moo who resettled in Canada several years ago said, “They [displaced refugee children] are like students without a university.” 

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