UNICEF supported Non-Formal Primary Education (NFPE) offers second chance education for out-of-school children in Mon State
Mawlamyaing, Mon State, Myanmar, 29 July 2013: Thar Thar Aung 13, is happy to have his dream come true. As a school drop-out he had little hope for a second chance until he got back on track with his primary education through Non Formal Primary Education (NFPE) programme.
Thar Thar grew up as one of six siblings in family living in poverty relying on limited rice farming in the remote Natsinchaung village in Mawlamyaing Township of Myanmar’s Mon State. He started in first grade as a 7 year old, but had no choice but to drop out at fourth grade when he was 11 due to financial constraints. He had to lend a hand in rice mill or in the paddy field, or help run daily errands to help his family.
In the last two years, Thar Thar nearly gave up on going back to school, until recently when he heard about the Non-formal Primary Education (NFPE) in his village that provides education in flexible time for those children who missed school and are working.
“I would not have had a chance to get back to studies unless the programme started for children like me who are unable to attend primary school,” said Thar Thar Aung, “I joined the programme only this month on hearing about it in the village. Now I am attending level II courses at the NFPE programme with my friends,” added a happy Thar Thar.
Thar Thar’s classes take place from Monday to Saturday in the evenings for two and a half hours in the NFPE programme using the space after hours in the NO (2) Basic Primary School, Kyauktan Ward in Mawlamyaing.
UNICEF supports Non-formal Education (NFPE) programme in partnership with the Ministry of Education for out of school children in 76 Townships across Myanmar, approximately 6 NFPE centres are now opened in each township.
UNICEF is supported in Non-formal Education Programme (NFPE) by Multi-donor Education Fund (MDEF) partners, comprising Australia, the European Union, DFID (UK Aid), Denmark, and Norway; and addition by the Governments of Germany and the Netherlands.
The programme offers a second chance of completion of primary education to those children who are living in poverty, have dropped out from school or unable to enrol in primary schools, most of whom work to support their families. The programme lasts for nine months from July to March and is offered in two course levels, I and level II.
Those who complete level II course are usually ready to attend Grade 6, some students move on to government middle schools.
“I wish to continue middle school education after completing level II course in the NFPE programme. But it depends on my situation and the family’s decision,” shared Thar Thar Aung.
“This programme is specifically designed to enable out of school children to complete their primary education. There are a total 500 hours of class time over 204 days in a year, they use the spaces of primary and post-primary schools as most these classes take place in the after hours,” said U Hla Moe, Assistant Township Education Officer from Mawlamyaing, Mon State.
Almost every student in this NFPE class is from families living in poverty. These children were unable to attend government primary school mostly because of insufficient family income and in addition to their parents, they need to join the workforce, to supplement family income or look after younger siblings and households. Majority of NFPE students are girls aged between 10 and 15 years.
Township Education Office gathers the list of out of school children by conducting a survey 2 to 3 months prior to beginning of the course. In the past, government service teachers were assigned to run NFPE programme.
With UNICEF support, Ministry of Education offered an intensive training course exclusively for the NFPE teachers, who are recruited by the community based on qualification and are trained for seven days.
“I joined NFPE programme this year. This is my first time and I am pleased to teach the out-of-school children. I am studying at the Malamyaing University as first year student with English major. I attended the teachers’ training in June in preparation for classes that began in the first week of July,” said Aye Mya Thida, 22 year old NFPE teacher.
The NFPE courses include Myanmar and English languages, Maths, Science and Social Studies and life skills equivalent to government primary school curriculum. Children also receive livelihood skills training such as production of homemade rattan ware, handicrafts in addition to regular courses taught in primary schools.
UNICEF provides technical assistance, training, and salary for NFPE teachers and text books, stationery, school kits which include games and story books for students.
“We want the NFPE graduates to stand on their own feet in life and livelihoods even if they are not in a position to continue further studies,” said Aye Mya Thida.