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Schools at the Thai-Burma border that cater for migrant children are facing severe operational struggles as funding from international donors falls, according to the Burmese Migrant Workers Education Committee (BMWEC).
“At this moment, there is no donor interest in funding the learning centres for next year, as a lot of attention has shifted to inside the country,” said Naw Paw Ray, chairperson of the BMWEC.
“The learning centres will continue operations until the end of this educational year, and students will be able to sit the end-of-year exams – but as yet, we have no funds for the upcoming cycle,” she said.
The committee have called a meeting with students and parents to assess how to deal with the situation.
There are around 70 Burmese migrant learning centres in Thailand’s Mae Sot and Phop Phra districts that border Burma, providing education to around 10,000 students. 55 of these schools – comprising 6,900 students – are BMWEC affiliated.
Naw Paw Ray said the BMWEC would put forward three options in the scheduled meeting which will allow parents to ensure their children’s continued education.
“We came up with three options. The first is to transfer the students to Thai schools. If parents are interested in this, the Education Department in Tak Province [which contains both Mae Sot and Phop Phra] have pledged to help explore opportunity for enrolment in local schools.
“The second option is to join schools back home in Burma. The BMWEC will assist with provision of the necessary paperwork for this,” said Naw Paw Ray.
“The third option is to continue learning at the migrant learning centres, but to make this possible, we need to explore ways to become self-reliant.”
Zaw Lwin Oo, a teacher at one of the learning centres in Mae Sot, has said that the closure of the centres would be devastating for the futures of the children.
A migrant worker named U Than, who has three children in school, told DVB: “Ideally, I would like my children to sit the matriculation exams here. However, if there are to be no more migrant learning centres, I may have to consider sending them back to school in Burma.”
The learning centres will hold their end-of-year exams at the end of February and throughout March, in line with Burmese government schools. There are 165 tenth grade migrant school students who are sitting the matriculation exam this year.