Massive Shortage of Teachers Puts Education, Communities in Jeopardy
29 May 2011: A massive shortage of govt-salaried teachers in Chin State is causing increasing drop-out rate among primary-level students and putting additional economic burdens on the largely rural communities still struggling with the effects of severe food crisis in Burma’s most impoverished State.
On average, there are only two govt-salaried teachers in a primary school, and three teachers in a post-primary school in Chin State, regardless of the size of the students. To overcome the teacher shortage and to meet the students’ educational needs, more rural communities have resorted to the practice of hiring additional ‘private’ teachers at their own expense.
Having to pay for additional teachers is putting extra financial strains on the communities and increasingly forcing them into debts.
A village headman in Thantlang Township explained: “In our village, the government provides only one teacher for the primary school and two teachers for the post-primary school. It is impossible to manage with only three teachers. So we are forced to hire nine additional teachers by ourselves to meet the needs of our children. At 50,000 Kyats per teacher, our village ends up paying 450,000 Kyats per month. The community now has over one million Kyats in debts.”
The headman said that parents who cannot contribute money for the teachers’ salaries have stopped sending their children to school out of shame, adding that 13 students have dropped out in 2011 as a result.
A local researcher, who recently conducted an independent survey in three townships of Chin State, said: “Only two villages in the over 90 villages I visited had not hired ‘private teachers.’ On average, the communities are supporting at least two additional teachers in every village.”
But according to official figures, in the 2009-2010 academic years, Chin State has 109,422 students in 1590 schools, with 4890 teaching staff. This, in theory, translates into an average number of 22 students for every teacher.
In his report to the Human Rights Council in March 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Burma Tomas Ojea Quinta said that the crumbling education system in Burma results from the regime’s ‘woefully insufficient’ spending on education. At only 0.9 percent of the Gross Domestic Product being invested in education, Burma spends three times as low as that of other countries in the region.
Schools in Shambles
Most schools in rural Chin State are in shambles. Although the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is supporting construction of new schools in Chin State, more schools in the rural areas are yet to benefit from the program.
A village elder from Thantlang Township explained, “Our village school teaches up to the fourth grade. The school has no partition that separates the class rooms and the teachers’ office. Kindergarten and grade one classes share the same room with the students facing opposite directions. Grade two and three would sit in the same class room in similar fashion and so on. The situation is really concerning.”
Meanwhile, the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) has reported that the Burmese regime is providing free education to Chin children from poor family backgrounds at training schools run by the Ministry for Progress of Border Areas and Development of National Races Affairs where students are asked to convert to Buddhism as a pre-requisite for admission. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Tomoas Ojea Quintana calls this an ‘indoctrination,’ which in effect is a gross violation of Burma’s international human rights obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.