(By Fayas Ahmed)
Arakan, Burma is extremely deprived of high level of illiteracy among the children as well as adults, said Hamid, who is studying in Malaysia University.
Most of the village tracts have at least one primary school (class 1 to 4). But remote areas’ admission is weakened by distance and lack of communication during the rainy season. But, widespread poverty keeps many children have to leave school as they are compelled to support to their families. Most of the students have to give up their schools during the winter and summer seasons to provide helps to their parents in their croplands. Most of the parents send their children for religious education in Madrasa and Maqtab to learn Quarn in Arabic. Furthermore, teaching in primary schools is only conveyed in Burmese language, which most of the children cannot speak and understand, said an intellectual.
There are some middle schools (class 5 to 8) and High Schools (Class 9 to 10), in Buthidaung and Maungdaw Townships. Besides, there are also some self-supported schools where students’ families and villagers have to pay the teachers in cash and in paddy. Some NGOs have also appointed some teachers to schools by providing them rice or paddy per month. A small number of Rohingya children reach class ten and complete basic education, he further added.
There is only one university in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, which was established in 1973. Since a travel ban to Sittwe has been enforced on the Rohingya people in February 2001, Rohingya students have been facing more difficulties and problems to join the University. All the students including Rohingya across the 17 townships of Arakan State have to study in Sittwe University except those who got admission at Rangoon University and other institutions. But, Rohingya students were totally banned to go to Rangoon for higher education or other professional subjects. However, to avoid the difficulties, most of the Rohingya students can only study university level courses through distance education, said a university student.
Moreover, Rohingya students have been facing serious difficulties in obtaining permission to sit in their examination, which was held on 6th December 2004. About 205 Rohingya students (regular basis and distance education) from Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships didn’t get travel passes timely from SPDC authorities to go to Sittwe to sit their annual examination, he more said.
Education levels are also worsened by the lack of teachers in rural areas and the poor quality of teaching. Besides, Rohingya teachers cannot be employed as civil servants and are not allowed to teach in government schools. However, in some rural areas, Rohingya teachers have been appointed temporally by NGOs or by the villagers themselves by supporting them with rice or paddy.
In northern Arakan, about 85% of the schoolteachers are Buddhists (Rakhine and Burman) and the remaining 15% are Arakanese Rohingyas who were appointed by the government before 1988. Government appointed teachers are always Buddhists and “paddy teachers” generally Arakanese Rohingys. There should be enough trained teachers, but Rakhing Buddhists are generally unwilling to teach Rohingya students and often neglect their profession. In addition, teachers receive a negligible salary and it compels them to increase their income through other means. Most of the Rakhing female teachers don’t wish to go to rural areas and concerned authorities don’t take any action against them, said a retired school headmaster on condition of anonymity.
"A good education system is necessary for the long-term development of a country and we all are responsible to work for the improvement of the education system." (Source: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, speech given on National Day, November 2002).
Education in Burma has been severely impacted by more than four decades of military rule. The military regime views potentially politically active university and high school students as one of the biggest threats to their grip on power, so all-non military education is treated as expendable. All civilian schools and universities throughout Burma suffer from a lack of resources and qualified educators, a problem found in many developing countries, however, unique to Burma is the fact that the ruling government actively tries to thwart universal and advanced higher education. (Source: HRD 2002-2003 of NCGUB).
The 1982 law on Citizenship makes the Rohingyas foreigners in their own country. The consequences of this non-citizenship law caused lack of freedom of association, impossibility to appeal to justice, or to apply for the public service, limited access to higher education.
The 1983 census shows male to female literacy rates of 86%: 77% in the predominantly Burman divisions, compared to 65%: 50% in the predominantly ethnic states. (Sources: Images Asia Jan 2002).
Due to the deteriorating levels of education available at government schools, students and parents are increasingly turning to other educational options when these are available. In Arakan State, a large number of students are reportedly leaving government schools to enroll in schools run by Buddhist monasteries. Many people in this area believe that monastic education is better quality and less expensive than education at state-run schools. There were approximately 500 students enrolled in just one monastery in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State. (Source: Narinjara)
Only a small percentage of people in Arakan are able to continue their higher education that passed high school. The majority of students are unable to pursue higher education for economic reasons. In order to support their families, many students have to quit schools to take jobs that don’t require a high education level, sometimes migrating to other countries where there are more employment opportunities. Other students cannot attend universities because they have fled their homes or been imprisoned for political activities.
The standard of education becomes high because of the developments in all sectors of the nation. The western media unjustly criticized Myanmar's education, saying that its level was too low; and that it was far away from meeting the standard. It is one of the many slanders against Myanmar hurled by the persons who do not wish to see her enjoying progress in all quarters. During the ancient times, Myanmars learnt education, religion and morals at monasteries. The colonialists after annexing Myanmar destroyed the nation’s education system and substituted it with its education system to breed colonialist servants. The SlORC/SPDC enacted laws to remove all the remaining colonial influences and thoughts in the education system. Short-term and long-term plans have been implemented for education promotion. Education conferences have been held to seek better means. The Government is building. Myanmar is cooperating with the world nations including the ASEAN to develop her education. Education systems have been firmly established in the nation. Because of racial and status discrimination, it is still difficult for all the people to pursue education in some big countries. But, Myanmar has no discrimination in any part and sector at all. Today, Myanmar has totally discarded the colonial education, and successfully established a firm and advanced national education system. It is a correct system free from errors. (Sources-The New Light of Myanmar, July 5, 2004.)
Burma’s education system has been heavily impacted by the regime’s grip of power. The regime has a fear of student movements, given the history of student movement in the past people’s uprisings. As a result, the regime often shuts down the schools and limits the freedom of education. ##