Students at the Yangon Education Center for the Blind are not letting their disability stop them from reaching for the top. In the latest high school exam results, one of them achieved a distinction in history, while four more matriculated with good scores. The matriculation exams are acknowledged by all Myanmar students as the most difficult in the high school curriculum. The marks achieved in them count when students apply for university places. Yi Yi Myint, one of the students who matriculated, said, "my dream is to attend the University of Foreign Language, specializing in English and Japanese. After I’ve graduated, I will lead my mother's company." She added that her success did not come without a lot of hard work. “We have to struggle and study more than other students,” she said. “I had regular studies during the day, then I used to sleep from 7 to 9 at night, study again until 5 am, then sleep from 5 am till 7 am before going back to school.” Yi Myint, who is also finding time to learn computing, said: "My mother and teachers have been a great help. They’ve encouraged me to stand on my own two feet in future." Naw Ju Ei Phaw has taught at the school, which is run by the Myanmar Christian Fellowship of the Blind, for the past 11 years. She explained how the teaching system works there. “We take the regular high school courses,” she said, “then I repeat the lessons to the blind students and they recite them back. We train them just the same as in a state school, let them take notes and make corrections on them.” “It’s a great challenge to teach blind people,” she added. “You need to be very patient because all the studying has to be done vocally with them. But we really want them to have good jobs and be able to communicate with others and to live independently." Ma Ah Mein is the student who achieved a distinction in the history exam. Now 22 years old, she has been one of the center’s 110 students since 1998. She agreed that blind students have to work harder and longer than their sighted classmates. “I’m from the northern Shan state so I couldn’t even speak the Myanmar language,” she said. “I had to learn it first.” “It takes longer to study with your hands, which is what blind people have to do. We can study some subjects on our own, but we need somebody’s help with mathematics. Practice is essential and we need to thoroughly know a lesson before proceeding to the next one.” Naw Thalet War is the teacher who helped her earn her distinction. "I really feel happy that she got it,” she said. “The students are interested in history but the challenge is that it takes time to learn the lessons and repeated training is required until they can recite and remember them.” “We teach the students with our heart and soul,” she added. “Apart from the lessons, we teach them general knowledge and life experiences, so they can overcome the challenges of teenage life.”
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