Monastery Based Free Primary School, Darpain Village, Hlego Township, Burma (Myanmar)
My name is Ni Ni Win. I am from Myanmar and I was born in a little village called Darpain Village in southern Myanmar. Most of the people in this village are farmers. My grandparents were also farmers from this village. There are altogether one government secondary school and two primary schools in this village. Primary school education in Myanmar is for free. However, parents need to pay a small amount of money for the parents teacher association and other expenses such as school building maintenance fees. Parents also need to buy stationeries and provide lunch for their kids. However, most of the parents cannot afford to send their children to school because most of them are manual workers at local farms.
U Awebatha who is the chief monk of Pe-Dauk-Myaing Buddha Monks School noticed the situation of those children who could not go to the government school. He started Monastery Based Free Primary School for those children in 2005 with a small school building with about 50 students. I noticed this school when I was visiting my relatives in 2007. Ever since, I have been trying to support this school. Unfortunately, the small school building was completely destroyed due to Nargis typhoon on 2nd of May in 2008. I got help from my Myanmar and Japanese friends to rebuild a new building after the typhoon. The new school, build with the strength and kindness of the local people now accommodates about 100 students. After rebuilding, the student number has increased to about 250. Fortunately, the Japanese Rotary Club of Tokyo Chuo and Rotary Club of Funabashi East donated a new school building.
The aims and objectives of Monastery Education in Myanmar are as follow:
For the students, rich or poor, to be efficient in writing, reading and arithmetic skills like in basic government education
To be affordable and easily accessible
For the students to be good in character and to become good sons and daughters who are willing to serve the public and the country
For the students to understand Myanmar’s traditional Buddhist culture
For the students to be good Buddhists who will willingly take responsibility of future sasana after understanding the practice of Buddhist teachings and culture
For the students to be able to safeguard the longevity of the nation, traditions and Buddha sasana
Currently, we have 250 students from Grade 1 to 5. We accommodate the children from different ethnical groups and different religions. We don’t have any discrimination and our motto is “every child has a right to study at our school.”
I have personally donated electricity infrastructure to the school. Rotary Club of Funabashi East has also donated a tube well which is the main water supply of the school. The local people sometimes help with the stationeries and food. There are altogether 6 teachers working at the school. U Awebatha, I and one local traditional medicine company are currently paying for the teachers’ monthly salaries. The government has started to support for a portion of the salary for the 2012-2013 academic year. At the school, we have parent-teacher-association meetings where prizes, usually sponsored by me are given out to the outstanding students.
There are still some challenges at the school. For example, regular counseling needs to be provided for the parents to send their children to this free primary school for at least up to primary school graduation (Grade 5). Most of the local families have three to five children. Usually, the eldest child cannot go to school because he/she has to take care of the household and very young siblings when the parents are away at work during the day. In such cases, the school has to let the elder sibling to bring those young kids (2 to 3 years old) to the school. Primary school education usually begins at the age of 5 in Myanmar. After the children at the school have finished their primary school graduation, most of them cannot join the government secondary school. In the past, I have given monetary support to the total 40 students who have graduated from the school and would like to join the government secondary school. I am currently thinking together with U Awebatha to build up a new middle school building for the students and to run the school as Monastery Based Free Primary and Middle School. Our idea is that the students who are going to graduate can work as teachers at the school in the future.
It is my dream that basic education should be free and accessible to all the children in this village. I am hoping this dream will be become a reality in the near future with the kind support and donations from the good-willed people.