Myanmar

Taw Oo District Situation Update: Education, healthcare, development, livelihood and military activities (January to July 2020)

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This Situation Update describes events that occurred in Daw Hpa Hkoh and Htaw Ta Htoo (Htantabin) townships, Taw Oo (Toungoo) District from January to July 2020. It includes information about livelihood, education and healthcare during COVID-19, as well as human rights violations regarding development and military activities.

Education

There are both Karen Education and Culture Department [KECD] schools and Myanmar government schools in Daw Hpa Hkoh (Thandaunggyi) Township, Taw Oo (Toungoo) District. The schools experienced delays in opening for the academic year 2020-2021 due to COVID-19.

[As of the writing of this update] the Myanmar government high schools are planning to open on July 13th 2020 and student registration has started already. There are [new] policies for the high school students and their parents to follow, as well as [school-wide] hygiene procedures to protect the students.

The policies require students to wear masks and stay three feet [0.91 metres] away from each other. The parents or the guardian must arrange transportation for their children. People who bring and pick up their children must not be over 60 years old. The person who brings the children must be the same person who picks them up, and must wear a mask [when doing so]. This created issues for parents who have financial and livelihood problems, because some are unable to buy masks on a daily basis in order to bring and pick up their children from school.

[Other substantive changes have also been made.] "The Myanmar government schools have changed their curriculum [primary students will only be taught reading, not writing, and will have group exams instead of individual exams] which is a problem for students who are attending school in the academic year 2020-2021. [Additionally, if] the students fail to follow the [new COVID-19] policies and procedures, they will be punished or they will be fined" recounted one of the students' parents.

One of the students said that, "There are more chances that students will have to drop out or quit school when they fail to follow the procedures for preventing the virus." [Moreover, if] the students have to stay three feet away from each other, there will be not enough space in the classroom. There will be not enough buildings [classrooms] or school supplies.

The parents are afraid and have concerns about their children going to school because of the COVID-19 situation. The reason is that the teachers who are assigned to Daw Hpa Hkoh High School and Htaw Ta Htoo (Htantabin) High School are from other areas such as Mon State and from towns where the Covid-19 infection rate is high. The parents do not know how the relevant government administrators and the township educational administrator are going to arrange for prevention. Therefore, the parents worry about COVID-19 infection. There are still weaknesses [in the prevention policies] of the Myanmar government schools, even though they are going to open. There is not enough [disinfectant] spraying at the schools and in the classrooms, and there are not enough prevention supplies for the health safety of the students.

There are two townships in Taw Oo District: Htaw Ta Htoo and Daw Hpa Hkoh. And there is one KECD middle school and one KECD primary school in Daw Hpa Hkoh Township. The schools are self-funded schools, established by the local villagers [but they receive support from the KECD]. The teachers who are teaching at the schools have graduated from KECD schools in Taw Oo District. The students who finish grade four continue their education at the Hsa Thoo Lay Middle School in Daw Hpa Hkoh Township.

The students who graduate from KECD schools such as Hsa Thoo Lay Middle School in Daw Hpa Hkoh Township continue their education at Htoh Lwee Wah High School [a KECD school which actually covers grades 5 to 12] and at Kaw Thoo Lei Junior College [a KECD post-secondary school] in Htaw Ta Htoo Township, Taw Oo District. Most of the students who go to study at the middle school in Daw Hpa Hkoh Township are from KNU-controlled areas and their parents have livelihood difficulties. The students who attend the Hsa Thoo Lay Middle School have fewer expenses [than schools in towns like Toungoo] because their parents bring rations [food] for them.

Similarly, the students who graduate from [other] middle schools in Htaw Ta Htoo and Daw Hpa Hkoh Townships continue their studies at Htoh Lwee Wah High School and Htoh Lwee Wah Junior College in Htaw Ta Htoo Township. The annual school and dormitory fees total 300,000 kyats [USD 213] per student who attend the high school or college [which occupy the same campus]. However, if there are two or more students from one family who go there, they will only have to pay the fees for one student. Therefore, these two schools are more affordable [than other schools in the area], which means fewer numbers of students are unable to go to school [continue their secondary and post-secondary education].

There are at least 300 students studying at Htoh Lwee Wah High School and the junior college. The school committee and the dormitory committee still plan to open the school and accept dormitory students by finding donors to support the school and the dormitory.