Nature or nurture for the future of our children
Field mission to assess on-site teacher training
KACHIN STATE, MYANMAR - The road to the small town of Sumprabum, situated in Putao District of Kachin State in the northern part of Myanmar was better than usual, although we had to stop twice while the road was being repaired. The mountainous windy roads, 2,000 metres above sea-level, are prone to mudslides as it rains all year round here.
While waiting for the road to be repaired, I met a couple of women dressed in tracksuits who were fixing the inner tube of their motorbike’s back wheel. They told me they are teachers and are on their way to Sumprabum to take a written test for the on-site teacher training course they were attending. I was going there too but as a UNICEF to see how the testing was being carried out. The women were among 38 teachers taking the test on new teaching skills that they had studied during a 20-week course.
Fortunately, we only waited on the road for about 30 minutes, and then continued our way, passing small villages, home to a total of just 300 households. Looking through the car window, I saw a boy pulling two children sitting inside makeshift sledges made from plastic containers. They were school-age, but I wondered whether they attended school or not.
Then, I saw wild flowers on the roadside. I thought how these children are like flowers blooming naturally but they need someone to nurture them. I met one such person who could do that so well, just a few hours later.
She is Daw Hnin Wutyi Htun, a teacher at Phone Kyan Post Primary School in Sumprabum. Daw Hnin Wutyi Htun told me despite being so far from home, (she can only get back home once a year) she is content. “It is remote, but I am happy as I love children.”
She had recently completed the 20-week on-site teacher training course and taken the test on the new teaching methods, and spoke enthusiastically about what she had learnt, particularly how she now uses different activities to encourage children to participate in class. She told me how she paid special attention to the girls who are usually the quieter ones in class. “I give opportunities especially for girls who are shy to talk… and now they are eager to discuss individually, in pairs or in groups.”
Daw Hnin Wutyi Htun suggested to expand this type of training to other townships so other teachers could also benefit. I explained this had already happened, and a total of 29,024 teachers received in-service teacher training by the Ministry of Education in the 2018-2019 academic year. The training was implemented with technical support from UNICEF and financed by the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) and H&M Foundation.
I then climbed the hill to a monastery. On top sits a magnificent pagoda where roses bloom in the monastery garden. I asked a monk there, who is the gardener? The monk replied, “I am the gardener, I take care of the roses and I regularly water them.”
It made me think again about nature and nurture. If those children whom I saw on roadside are taken care of by a teacher like Daw Hnin Wutyi Htun, their future too would be bright.