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22 December 2023 - Story

Discovering Bliss: Where home and school unite in perfect harmony

A teenage girl is holding a one-year-old baby in her arms, smiling and affectionately referring to him as, 'My little brother.' 

This is in the evening after school hours when the girl begins taking on household responsibilities as the eldest daughter in the family, which include babysitting her younger brother.   

“There is no housework that I dislike now, but it used to be babysitting,” said Zar Chi, 15, who lives in Magway Region with her mother, younger sister, and younger brother. Her father works in a factory located in the city.   

Zar Chi's mother is physically disabled due to an accident that required surgeries and hospitalization. Consequently, Zar Chi is to take on various household chores, such as babysitting, cooking for the entire family, and working part-time on farms to earn money. While she now manages her duties comfortably, she initially struggled with the significant workload she needed to take.     

When her younger brother was born, Zar Chi experienced criticism from people around her due to her mother giving birth to a child despite her disability. People sometimes confronted Zar Chi directly about this, causing her distress 

"At the age of 14, she stopped going to school and became isolated. She felt lonely, and her relationship with her father became strained. Her father used to tell Zar Chi, 'You are the older sister, so you have to do all the chores because your mother has a disability.' This led to arguments between father and daughter, and eventually, Zar Chi was beaten by her father," said Zar Chi’s mother, Daw Khin Lay, 39.  

"I did not speak to my father when my younger brother was born because I did not want to babysit him. Every time I yelled at my parents, refusing to take care of him, my father hit me. So, I was not happy staying at home", Zar Chi added 

At that moment, Zar Chi saw the light that shined the way out of challenging situations. Save the Children staff visited Zar Chi's home and discussed with her father on positive parenting practices. The staff guided how to treat children and secured his promise not to hit Zar Chi again. Zar Chi could manage her emotions and thoughts through the encouragement and mentorship gained from the staff's home visits and reading club sessions in which she participated. Eventually, her father changed his parenting approach, and physical punishment ceased. As a result, Zar Chi also changed her behavior positively.  

“I no longer yell at my parents because the teachers (Save the Children’s staff) explained that such behaviour was inappropriate.”  

Furthermore, Save the Children supported Zar Chi's return to school by having discussions between Zar Chi and her parents to balance the time between household chores and school time. Save the Children also provided educational materials such as school uniforms, books, pens, pencils, and pencil cases for Zar Chi's return to school. The family also received essential food items, such as a bag of rice, cooking oil, beans, and eggs, which ensured their food security for over a month 

Zar Chi happily shared the experience of returning to school, “With the support of Save the Children, I now have a chance to attend school again. As I can go to school now, I no longer yell at my parents when they ask me to do something. I am happy to attend school and can learn the lessons well." 

Today, Zar Chi embraces her school days with joy and finds delight in her daily life. While taking charge of her family's chores as the eldest sister, she also finds time to be with friends for her well-being.