Fashion, dreams and non-formal education

Non-formal education

Axelle Chazal
UNICEF
©UNICEF Myanmar/2019/Axelle Chazal

17 October 2019

Hla Hla May, 14, is absorbed in her work, just like the other 20 adolescent girls who are focused on patterned paper laid out on the floor. They are drawing, measuring and cutting blouses today; some are sewing. 

We are in a tailoring workshop, in Say Tha Ma Gyi camp for internally displaced people in Sittwe, in the central part of Rakhine State. The training is part of a non-formal education programme provided by Plan International and supported by UNICEF. 

Cultural norms, poverty and her parents’ arrival in the camp seven years ago, prevented Hla Hla May from continuing her schooling after Grade 2. Suddenly she had to stay at home: a time she prefers to forget. This is one of the reasons why she enjoys the training so much. “This workshop has changed so many things for me; before I had to stay at home and help with the housework, now I see friends every day and design dresses.” 

UNICEF
©UNICEF Myanmar/2019/Axelle Chazal

Hla Hla May’s dream is to become a dressmaker and so she wants to get the most out of this training. She is an excellent student and her trainer, Mala Shwe, hopes she will find an opportunity to work in the camp. 

UNICEF
UNICEF Myanmar/2019/Axelle Chazal

Non-formal education programmes offer displaced children, like Hla Hla May and her classmates, a second chance and the possibility to learn new skills. The three-month tailoring training follows a five-month course focusing on literacy, numeracy and life skills, which prepares the students and gives them the necessary skills to take part in vocational training. The life skills component focuses on problem solving, creative thinking, decision making and communication, as well as prevention of HIV/AIDS.
 

UNICEF
UNICEF Myanmar/2019/Axelle Chazal

These non-formal education programmes are one of the very limited opportunities for these displaced Muslim adolescents to acquire basic vocational skills. Bike repair training is also offered to adolescents in Say Tha Ma Gyi camp in Sittwe. There are 10 non-formal education centres supporting 280 girls and 280 boys. In other camps in Sittwe, some younger out-of-school children have access to non-formal primary education programme centres, a second chance at school with the possibility to join formal education classes after two years of studying an accelerated curriculum.  297 boys and 212 girls are learning in 16 non-formal primary education programmes centres supported by UNICEF with other partners in internally displaced persons camps and host villages in Sittwe and Pauktaw townships in Rakhine.

UNICEF
UNICEF Myanmar/2019/Axelle Chazal

Hla Hla May finds the training challenging but ‘our trainer makes it easy and enjoyable’, she says. Mala Shwe has more than 25 years tailoring experience. She has had several trainees in her shop before, but this is the first time that she has such a large group; and she enjoys it, “We have the material and the equipment we need, the students are attentive, and they learn fast!”

UNICEF
UNICEF Myanmar/2019/Axelle Chazal

Hla Hla May takes us home to meet her siblings and mother, Aisha Begon, who is thrilled about her eldest child’s dressmaking training. She thinks it will give her daughter work opportunities and help the family. 

Aisha Begon never went to school and, although Hla Hla May’s education was interrupted after Grade 2, she wants to make sure her other daughters will continue their schooling. The other two school-aged sisters are now studying in Grades 1 and 2 in temporary learning classes in the camp, another educational activity supported by UNICEF. In total, UNICEF, with partners, is supporting the Government to provide learning opportunities for about 8,000 students in camps for internally displaced persons in Rakhine State.