Chin Community School Thriving despite Limited Supports
18 July 2010: Despite facing enormous challenges, the Chin Student Organization (CSO) that manages seven community schools in Malaysia is thriving as the major education provider for refugees’ children in the country.
Starting from a flat lot at Imbi in the heart of Malaysia’s capital city, CSO currently is running seven schools that housed 470 students both in Kuala Lumpur and the state of Selangor.
With a team of 35 full time teachers who are Burma’s university graduates, the school is teaching English, Mathematics, Science and Chin Literature to children aged between five to 16 years old.
They were grouped into three classes based on their age and their level of understanding, and Haka Chin dialect, which is spoken the majority of Chins now living in Malaysia, is used to teach all subjects.
For many of the students, Malaysia is the only place for them to learn to speak and write their mother tongue since teaching of Chin language is not allowed in government school in junta-controlled Burma.
Improved Security Environment
For CSO President, Roger Khua Hup, although it is still very challenging to run a community school in Malaysia, but he is thankful that the worst part is over.
“Last year was the worst year for our children, the local authorities were conducting raids on our children who are 15 or 16 years old, they were stopped on their way to school and treated as illegal immigrants.”
“The situation however changed, we provide our students with student identity cards and this help to free them from any problem with the police or RELA.
“The Malaysian authority also began to understand that we are refugees who are different from illegal migrants,’’ he told Chinland Guardian in an interview at Kuala Lumpur.
Roger said the year 2010 marks a better year for most Chin refugees in Malaysia as many of them are allowed to work without harassment from the local authority.
“In 2009 many refugees were not allowed to work, making it difficult for many parents to afford to pay the nominal RM10 (USD $3.20) monthly school fees.
“We cannot reject our students just because their parents are poor, this mean CSO have to bear the extra costs.”
“Thank God the situation is getting better this year, most of the students’ parents are working and they are able to pay the school fees on time, ‘’ he said.
Roger said the school fees from parents however are far from enough to cover all the expenses to run both five schools in Kuala Lumpur and another two in Selangor.
He said CSO is very much depended on local churches and donors in Malaysia to cover the cost for seven school that totaled RM18,000 (USD $5,620) every month.
“The rental for our biggest school at Imbi for example is quite expensive, we rented two unit flats as class room and teachers’ residential for RM3,100 (USD $966 every month).”
“We have around 130 students at Imbi and even if all of them pay the RM10 school fees, it still not enough to cover the rental, not to mention the costs for stationery, electricity and water supply bills,’’ he said.
According to him, budgets constraints also stopped them to set up more schools in other area inhabited by Chin refugees.
“We received calls from three other community schools in Seremban at Negeri Sembilan State, Sungai Long at Selangor State and Sungai Besi at Kuala Lumpur, they are requesting for help.”
“There is not much we can do, our money and resources are very limited,’’ he said.