“Education for our children, we have to teach our children.” This was the message that we heard at our discussion about supporting the Church in Myanmar, formerly Burma. All schools had been closed since 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, and due to the unstable social situation, they still had not reopened in many country areas. In areas with little or no electricity or any access to the internet, if the school is closed there is no opportunity for any kind of education for the children. The parents do their best to provide food and security for their children. They passed on this message to us: we need to teach our children as well.
There may be as many as one million internal refugees in Myanmar, that is people who have had to leave their villages and towns due to the unsafe security situation. In five dioceses, the Church is caring for over 100,000 people in temporary camps, providing shelter, food and medical help. Already stretched to the limit, they have few resources left over for setting up learning centers as well. However, with whatever little they have parishes, convents and local communities have started over 400 education projects, relying on volunteer teachers and donations.
In five dioceses, the Church is caring for over 100,000 people in temporary camps, providing shelter, food and medical help. Already stretched to the limit, they have few resources left over for setting up learning centers as well.
Classes started in the shade of a tree or under plastic sheeting stretched between bamboo poles. But soon, the villagers would start the process of putting up temporary classrooms: level the land, cut down trees for timber, flatten the bamboo for flooring, weave bamboo into wall panels and add plastic sheeting for roofing. And then classes can begin. Still setting up these learning centers involves a great many challenges, but the resilience and dedication of the people involved means that the obstacles will be overcome to provide education for their children.
In consultation with Myanmar church leaders, the Seeds of Hope project was created. Due to the sweat and labor of the villagers, new classrooms have been built, and now we can support their efforts by providing educational supplies and living expenses for the volunteer teachers. Planting the seeds of education will give the whole community hope for a better tomorrow. These children have lost their homes; we are trying to make sure that they do not lose their futures as well.
Columban Fr. Leo Schumacher provided this update.