In the Mae Sot area there are more than 20,000 school age children, yet only 9,000 attend school. At Colabora Birmania, we have spent years providing education to as many children as possible so that as well as getting an education, they can enjoy a decent childhood and not have to work in the field or in factories to earn their own living. Even so, thousands of children are forced to work in order for themselves and their families to get by. In some cases, our limited resources do not allow us to educate as many children as we would wish; in others, the children simply cannot attend school because their families’ meager livelihood turns the children´s labor into a question of family survival, and when survival is at risk, education unfortunately takes a back seat.
The program, initially established by the NGO World Education, has been operating since 2012 and Colabora Birmania gradually joined forces, providing teachers, human resources, and materials, to the point where we now manage the project completely, taking the place of World Education and frugally utilizing available resources to ensure the project´s viability.
Also known as NFPE (Non-Formal Primary Education), the night school project was created for want of literacy opportunities for a segment of the population who, due to certain circumstances, is not able to attend any of the schools Colabora Birmania has built and maintained since its inauguration as an NGO.
The night schools´ students come from the community´s poorest families, and their extreme financial hardship impedes them from accessing formal education, having to wait until the end of the work day to receive this highly valued education.
With the passing of years, the program has managed to stand out as an example for other organizations to follow, drawing interest and admiration from organizations like UNICEF, which finances a small part of the schools, covering just a portion of the teachers’ salaries. Colabora Birmania covers all other expenses, including management, transportation, and materials, as well as provides human capital and our own resources that ensure the project´s operation and viability. There are currently 3 centers in Mae Sot and 3 in Phop Phra, with 150 students already benefitting from the program. Colabora Birmania manages the centers in Phop Phra (40 km from Mae Sot), while our frequent partner foundation, Help Without Frontiers, handles the centers in Mae Sot. The program´s success is so evident that we have had to open a second cycle for those who have completed the first year, to continue learning during a second year. The program has also caught the attention of the Myanmar government, which signed an agreement in 2013 allowing our students to receive a formal certificate that will permit them to continue studying, should they choose to return to Myanmar, at the same level where they left off at our night schools.
Photos: Antolín Avezuela