Myanmar: Journeying with hope
07 August 2020|JRS Myanmar
My name is Naw Sher Ler Thar. I am 23 years old. The meaning of my name is “a sweet person with a gentle heart”. I live in KheMaPhyu village in Mawchi area. I have four siblings including myself. I studied until Standard 4 in the school in my village.
Due to family economic challenges, in 2011, I went to Mae Ra Ma Luang refugee camp in Mae Hong Son, Thailand, to continue my education. I stayed at a boarding house in the camp and continued my study until Grade 9. In 2016, when I was about to continue Grade 10, the boarding house was moved back to Hpa-an Township in Kayin State, Myanmar. Therefore, I stayed at the house of my mother’s friend in the camp, and continued my Grade 10 education.
After I passed Grade 10, I came back to my village in April 2017. When I arrived back to my village, my close childhood friend informed me that there was an opportunity to study at Teacher Training Center (TTC) in Myitkyina. As we both would like to contribute something good to the children in our communities in Mawchi area, we decided to go to Myitkyina to study at TTC in August 2017. We graduated from TTC in May 2018. Then, we both were assigned to be teachers in Bahoe Village.
I remembered and smiled a lot whenever I thought of some memories at TTC. I was not fluent in Burmese language and whenever I spoke Burmese, all my friends would laugh a lot because they didn’t understand my Burmese. But I tried to speak as much as I could and after a few months my friends understood my accent. I still keep in touch with some friends from my same batch.
I also remember my first trip to Bahoe village where I was assigned to teach. Together with my friend who studied at TTC together, we left liaison office at 7:00 AM on a rainy day in early June 2018. We walked since there is no other option to reach the village. We didn’t know the way. We were told to walk straight and follow the footpath. Lucky that we met some children who carried rice sacks who were from Bahoe village on the way. We followed them, but they walked so fast and we finally lost them. We didn’t give up and continued walking. We finally arrived Bahoe village at around 6:00 PM. We were so tired but also relieved because we arrived our destination and the village leader welcomed and provided a house to stay. Villagers also provided shelter, rice, and some vegetables. I bought cooking oil, salt, onion, garlic, etc.
I taught geography, history and maths in Standard 5, 6 and 7 classes. I tried to teach the students the best I can since I wanted to give them the best I have. The student I always remember is the girl from Standard 5. She came from a remote area in Kayin State. At the beginning, she could not read, speak, and write Burmese. She could not follow lessons and her classmates bullied her. I tried to manage the class by stressing that everyone has different abilities and we need to help each other, especially those who are weaker. The girl stayed with her aunt in the village. Her aunt and I supported her to study at home after school. She then gradually improved and performed better than her classmates at the end of the academic year.
With all the challenges (remoteness, unavailable telecommunication, lacking of support from community, low incentive, etc.), my worry is whether children in remote villages will continue to have regularly volunteer teachers.
In May 2020, after serving as a teacher in the village for two years, an Education Coordinator asked me whether I want to work as a Mobile Education Assistant (MEA) who trains and monitors other teachers. I took this opportunity and I am now receiving training with other MEAs and JRS trainers. I know there will be lots of challenges. But I will continue to improve myself to serve community teachers in my new role, as an MEA.