A flower grower's story
A young man explains the lessons to some children in a small room, slightly unlike the regular classroom arrangement: a small hut, bamboo walls, and no separate rooms for the different classes. In contrast to the imperfect background scene, the teacher is energetic, and the students are also enthusiastically learning the lessons.
The place is in a small village located far from the city. Most residents living in the village are Ta'ang, an ethnic minority in Shan State. A young teacher is also a Ta'ang man, but he is originally from the other township in Shan and transferred to the current village school in May 2020.
"I am passionate about developing my community. So, I have decided to work as a teacher for the development of the Ta'ang people because our ethnic group lags behind others."
Mai Nyi*, 23, started working as a teacher in 2018. He mainly teaches English and Burmese.
Although his ethnic group is the same as the village he works in, the language is dissimilar. It is common to experience different languages among the same ethnic groups in Myanmar. So, he faced many challenges in communicating with his new students and the villagers when he first moved. He also found it challenging to teach children and explain the lessons when their language differs.
"I had to learn to speak their language within two weeks. And finally, I realized I also needed to learn more about teaching methods and use visual teaching aid materials.", said Mai Nyi.
While he was eager to explain the lessons to children until they understood thoroughly, he got an opportunity to attend a training by Save the Children (SCI) about school safety, positive discipline and how to negotiate with the community.
Mai Nyi, a young and passionate teacher, learned a new teaching method that was easily understandable for his students. He applied his new learnings of using teaching aid materials right away after completing the training. And eventually, he found a beautiful outcome from it.
"Learning materials which show pictures and texts together make it children easier to see the definition. They don't know that the word A-P-P-L-E is the apple. But when they see the picture, they immediately recognize it. Visual aid materials make teaching easier when my language and theirs differ."
Since Burmese is a common language in Myanmar, Mai Nyi wishes his students to be proficient in the Burmese language. When in the reading club, he reads poems and stories and performs with gestures by playing nursery rhymes with the children. When he was about to read, the children began to surround him with cheerful smiles and shining eyes with interest.
"Children are happy at the reading club and never return home, even when the session ends.", said Mai Nyi.
Save the Children implemented the integrated project (Education & Child Protection) in difficult-to-reach areas, intending to provide school-aged boys and girls (ages 5–17) with access to safe, quality, and inclusive education, as well as increased protection.
Save the Children, and its partner supported teacher stipends, teacher kits, textbook provision, partitions, furniture provision, support for documentation to access education, school latrine and educational training for the volunteer teachers. Save the Children provided case management support to the children who couldn't afford to go to school and those at risk of experiencing child protection risks. Seed funding was provided to establish a revolving fund to support education service provision.
Mai Nyi experienced that Save the Children provided not only teaching aid materials and training for teachers where he works but also a helping hand for those students in need of food or supplies.
"Children were not going back at lunchtime. I didn't know the reason at first and had no chance to ask them. But later, after two or three days, they told me about not returning as there was no food at home. SCI provided food to them. It was very convenient for them. Children couldn't even wear shoes when I first arrived. Now they have shoes as SCI provided them."
Mai Nyi does not have many dreams except to become a teacher who can benefit his community, the Ta'ang people. But he wishes to help underprivileged children develop their skills until they are ready to go elsewhere to create a better future.
"For the longer term, we need to create job opportunities. To get a job, they must be proficient in the Burmese language. That's what I always insist on the villagers. I want the children to be proficient in Burmese to improve our ethnic area." Mai Nyi concluded his conversation with a hopeful smile.