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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

EXCEL education programme is bridge to the future for children in post-tsunami Myanmar

UNICEF Image: Myanmar: Tsunami education
© UNICEF Myanmar/2006
An Extended and Continuous Education and Learning class in session for children of Asin Chaing village, Myanmar. For many children, is their first opportunity to go to school.

By Sandar Linn

ASIN CHAING, Myanmar, December 2006 – Asin Chaing is a quiet coastal village in the Ayeyarwady Division of Myanmar. In the 2004 tsunami, the village and its neighbouring communities suffered widespread destruction, and to this day they are still carrying the burden left by the disaster. Many children were pulled out of school to help their families cope with financial hardship.

Based on the community’s needs, UNICEF and partners have implemented a programme called EXCEL – Extended and Continuous Education and Learning – as part of the tsunami recovery effort. The programme provides vulnerable and out-of-school children with essential education and life skills to help them prepare for the future.

For many children in this area, EXCEL is their first opportunity to go to school. Since the programme’s hours are flexible, students have time for both household chores and classes.

Education and life skills

Thanks to the programme, Daw Tin Mar Kyi’s daughter Moe Moe, 16, is back at the classroom instead of helping out at home all day. “Our nomadic way of life along the seashore meant I could not afford to send my three children to school,” said Daw Tin Mar Kyi, 44, a villager in Asin Chaing. 

“Now my children have joined the course. I’m relieved. I do believe that getting an education will prepare them to make the most of their life.”

The curriculum not only helps Moe Moe and other children catch up with their academic studies, but also offers practical training in decision-making, self-protection and communication skills to prepare them for the challenges life has yet to offer.

“I am glad that my mother let me attend this programme so I can continue learning,” said Moe Moe. “Now I know how to protect myself.”

© UNICEF Myanmar/2006
Children discuss lessons learnt at an EXCEL class held in Asin Chaing village. To date, more than 8,600 children in 13 townships have completed the nine-month EXCEL course.

Getting the community involved

Parents, teachers and village elders are all mobilized to help support the EXCEL programme.

“I helped identify 10- to 17-year-old out-of-school children and help them participate in the programme,” said Kyaw Htay, 29, is an active participant in the Asin Chaing village programme. “This is not an easy task but I’m happy because I do believe children will become more self-confident, can make better-informed decisions and contribute positively to their communities.”

Despite various obstacles, trained young educators travel to each village three times a week to meet and work with the children for a two-hour EXCEL session, often in the evenings. To date more than 8,600 children in 13 townships have completed the nine-month course that EXCEL offers. More than 50 per cent are girls and the majority are working children. Some 350 young educators have completed the training and support the programme in targeted villages.

Positive results

Based on an internal assessment done in late 2004 by UNICEF and partners, positive behavioural changes were found among the children who have participated in EXCEL. These changes include increased knowledge of HIV/AIDS, improved preventive measures against the disease, and improved attitudes towards people living with HIV.

The assessment also showed that children have gained much better communication skills.

“After completion of the programme, the children can always go back to regular school when their family’s financial situation allows,” said educator Than Than Mon, 24. “EXCEL is like a bridge to a better future for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children.”




December 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on the Extended and Continuous Education and Learning programme for communities affected by the tsunami in Myanmar.
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