(MissionNewswire) The Don Bosco Vocational Training Center in Myitkyina, Myanmar launched a new school on June 5. Students will be attending courses in carpentry, welding, electricity, automotive, tailoring, dressmaking and beautician programs. Over the last 11 years, more than 500 young men and women, aged 18 to 25 years, have graduated from its programs.
Because the school is located in the northernmost part of Myanmar within the Kachin State, which has a long history of armed conflict, some of the graduates were orphans and children from broken families. The school is operated by a small Salesian community with four Salesian priests, four sisters of St. Paul from the local congregation founded by Salesian Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon, and eight volunteer part-time teachers/instructors. The volunteers come from various religious faiths, including both Catholic and Buddhist, and are working together to educate the students.
“New students are all ready for the launch of the 2018-2019 school year and second-year trainees are attending their on-the-job training,” says Salesian Father Victor Nawki, who is in charge of the community. “We are still hoping for new improvements to the center like a new community building and a new study hall for the second-year students, a much-needed water reservoir, repair of the roofing and new equipment in all six sections of the educational programs.”
The school also provides room and board to its students and instructors. All of the buildings at the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center are wooden construction, with few walls made of bricks or cement. Salesian missionaries would like one day to be able to expand the boarding house to help graduates who already have jobs but have no place to stay in Myitkyina. They would also like to look at expanding the programs that are currently offered.
While students are not attending their classroom and on-the-job training, there are daily chores on the large farm and afternoon sports including kickball, football and volleyball. Students also attend prayer lessons and orientation sessions.
During the 2017-2018 school year, the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center had a number of improvements including the development of two new open-air workshops and the purchase of 10 new laptops for the new IT program. Due to the large number of students attending, some corridors were transformed into study halls or bedrooms to accommodate the growing student population. Improvements to the center will continues as Salesian missionaries meet the growing demand for their educational programs.
While Myanmar is the second largest country in Southeast Asia and rich in natural resources, it is one of the least developed countries in the world, ranking 145 out of 188 countries according to the 2016 Human Development Report. More than a quarter of Myanmar’s population still lives in poverty with the poverty rate rising sharply to 70 percent for those living in rural areas.
Myanmar also has the lowest life expectancy and the second highest rate of infant and child mortality in the region. Just one-third of the population has access to the electricity grid, and only about half of school age children complete their primary education. Salesian missionaries operate 10 centers throughout Myanmar to help those who are poor, in need of education and are marginalized.