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Suu Kyi promises to improve education for displaced children

Tens of thousands of Kachin children in camps struggle to get a decent education

Suu Kyi promises to improve education for displaced children

Young girls learn to sew at Catholic Church-run Jai Maing Kaung internally displaced persons camp on the outskirts of Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State in April. ( photo)

John Zaw, Mandalay

August 7, 2017

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Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has promised Baptist leaders that she will assist with efforts to improve schooling for children in displaced persons' camps in conflict-torn Kachin state.

Church leaders raised the issue during a meeting with Suu Kyi in the capital Naypyidaw on July 24. They said she pledged to help children in the camps facing difficulty getting into state-run schools.

Fighting between the Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar military has forced more than 100,000 people into internally displaced persons camps. Civil war has plagued the mountainous northern state off and on since Myanmar gained independence from Britain in 1948.

Rev. Hkalam Samson, general secretary of Kachin Baptist Convention, said his group is collecting data from the camps to support planning.

He said many children lacked school transfer paperwork and national registration cards.

Suu Kyi's involvement constituted a marked progress, Rev. Samson told



Children at play in the Catholic Church-run Jai Maing Kaung internally displaced persons camp in Myanmar's Kachin State during April. ( photo)


After years of house arrest, Suu Kyi was released in 2010, but although her National League for Democracy won a landslide election victory in 2015, she was constitutionally banned by the former military regime from becoming the country's president.

The post of state counsellor was created to allow her a leading role in governing the country.

Suu Kyi and Kachin Baptist leaders discussed peace efforts as well as the problems of dislocated communities.

Aung Lar, an administrator at the Kachin Baptist Convention-run Mai Na refugee camp in Wai Maw township, said displaced people had to cover their children's education expenses while facing a daily battle to survive.

Some 50 students from the camp had dropped out from schools as parents could not afford to support them.

There are 500 school children in the camp that accommodates over 2,000 people who were forced to leave their villages due to fighting in 2011.

Bauk Yun, a 38-year-old mother of three from the camp, said her husband is working as a daily laborer to help educate their three children as cash assistance for daily food was insufficient.

She sent her eldest son, a grade 11 student, to live with relatives and her other two children, who are in grades 9 and 6, are attending a school near the camp.

"As much as we can, we try our best to support our children as education plays an important role in their future," Bauk Yun, a Kachin Baptist, told


A Kachin boy helps in a basic kitchen in the Catholic Church-run Jai Maing Kaung internally displaced persons camp in Myanmar's Kachin State during April. ( photo)


Gum Sha Awng, spokesperson for the Joint Strategy Team, an alliance of nine aid organizations, said the government had a responsibility to aid conflict-affected children.

Karuna Myanmar, the Catholic Church's social arm, is one of the nine organizations that have been giving humanitarian assistance to camps in Kachin State as well as in northern Shan State.

Most of Kachin State's 1.7 million Kachins are Christians, including 116,000 Catholics.

Of the 100,000 displaced people, 49 percent are children, according to the U.N.

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