Children engage with high-level delegation about their education
Building on Quality Basic Education Programme
Ma Chit Su Htay, 10, can hardly contain her joy when she describes a ribbon-cutting ceremony on November 5 which released balloons up into the sky. The ceremony officially opened her new classroom in rural Sittwe, Rakhine State.
Now Ma Chit Su Htay can study in the new classroom which, unlike her old one, is flood- and earthquake resistant and has electricity, windows, plenty of space and new furniture.
Learning now will be easier than before, Ma Chit Su Htay says, and she is determined to learn. “I want to be an engineer to build houses and bridges across the many rivers,” says Ma Chit Su Hta, demonstrating with her hands as she talks.
Ma Chit Su Htay is also excited about the visitors who participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony. “It was the first time I saw such a big group of people like that visiting our school,” she says.
The delegation included the Minister of Social Affairs, Rakhine State Government, Dr. Chan Htar; the Director General of the Department of Basic Education, U Ko Lay Win; the Director General, Department of Alternative Education, Dr. Zaw Win; the Ambassador of the EU Delegation to Myanmar, Kristian Schmidt; the Danish Ambassador, John Nielsen; and UNICEF Deputy Representative to Myanmar, Paul Edwards.
Their visit was part of a day-long official closing ceremony of an education initiative, which ran from 2016 and finished on 15 December 2019, for disadvantaged children known as the Building on Quality Basic Education Programme (BoQBEP). The programme, led by the Ministry of Education with support from the EU, Denmark and UNICEF, has benefited over 1 million disadvantaged children nationwide.
 BoQBEP built on the previous Quality Basic Education Programme (QBEP) which ran from 2012 to 2016, supported by the Multi-Donor Education Fund (MDEF) comprising Australia, Denmark, the European Union, Norway, the United Kingdom and UNICEF. Over 2.5 million children benefitted from QBEP.
Ma Chit Su Htay’s school, Ye Chan Pyin Basic Education Middle School, was one of 38 schools which was renovated or reconstructed under BoQBEP. Apart from new classrooms, the schools are equipped with wash basins and separate toilet blocks for girls and boys as well as a ramp and rails for children with disabilities.
Nyein Nyein Soe, who teaches Ma Chit Su Htay says she already sees how important the new learning environment is. She adds, “We started lessons after the ceremony – it was much easier to concentrate as the old building just had thin partitions – it used to be very noisy.”
Although BoQBEP was a nationwide programme, increasingly the programme focused on children in Rakhine State, who are amongst the most disadvantaged in the country. This support aims to implement recommendations of the Advisory Commission for Rakhine State, which highlight inclusive education for all children, regardless of religion, ethnicity, race, gender or citizenship status.
The programme has accomplished notable achievements. Besides the school construction, which benefitted over 12,000 children, the achievements include providing over 16,000 displaced and conflict-affected children with a chance to learn and over 300,000 children with supplementary reading materials.
The new school library in Ma Chit Su Htay’s school is now stocked with story books. Ma Chit Su Htay says her favourite book is about three goats and a monster, as she likes the way “the goats use their knowledge to escape from danger.” She adds, “We can do that too.”
Another benefit of the programme is that over 2,000 teachers in Rakhine State have been provided with knowledge and skills on child-friendly school methods. Nyein Nyein Soe, says her lessons are now child-centred. “For example, now I listen to the children’s ideas first.”
After the school visit, the delegation travelled 20 kilometres back to Sittwe to Baw Du Pha camp for internally-displaced persons.
There, the delegates interacted with children, parents, volunteer teachers and camp leaders in a non-formal primary education centre and a temporary learning space, both supported by Save the Children International (SCI), which also received support from BoQBEP.
Among the children there that day was Mamed Rofi, 13, who like all his peers was displaced during the intercommunal conflict in 2012. Apart from being displaced and stateless, Mamed also suffered from polio as a young child and now has difficulty walking – his wheelchair is parked outside the temporary learning classroom until his grandmother comes to collect him at the end of class.
Mamed stood out as he was clapping so hard as the visitors entered. The opportunity to learn means a lot to him, and he is determined to continue to study. “We have had visitors before, but this time I notice that high-ranking Myanmar people are participating,” he says the next day, referring to the government officials from the Ministry of Education. “They wanted to know how we are learning and living in the camp.”
The programme supported trainings for the volunteer teachers in the camp, and provided learning kits which include pens, pencils and exercise books, and a raincoat and an umbrella, particularly important during the monsoon season, for each child.
The BoQBEP donors and UNICEF reassured the crowd packed into the temporary learning classroom that although the programme ends, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, their support for inclusive education for all children will continue.
Ma Chit Su Htay, too, is clear about the importance of education. “All children must go to school to get more knowledge,” she says.