Between the oppressors and the oppressed striving for justice, most of the children in some rural areas controlled by armed ethnicities, who have been fighting against the Myanmar military for federal democracy for centuries, have been facing difficulties in the learning process. Some ethnicities have lost their rights to walk in educational paths for over 70 years. Despite staying under the same sky and drinking the same water from the Than-Lwin river, some Karen children have gotten any size of bullets and ran away from airstrikes in the forest, instead of obtaining colorful papers, color pencils and playing around the classroom for centuries. That is the worst of me that I have not noticed such kind of oppression in spite of making friends with some pure Karen ethnicity in my basic education life and the days of obtaining the chance to teach them after my matriculation examination. Therefore, here, a little is there to express how alphabets out of sufferings were never chronological and the whys of not getting to be privileged in such an oppressed society.
Despite being a Burma residing in Karen State, I really adore its language and culture. Some people say that we are the oppressed here since where I have lived is the only village that most of the Burma have resided for so long and the rest are crowded with Karen ethnicity. But I have never thought that I was the oppressed, instead, I have personally reflected that I was literally a little bit privileged. The fact that I could go to school happily and peacefully means I was not oppressed. To add more, in my childhood, when others were running away for their lives from the brutality of the Myanmar military, I was just there awake for breakfast, getting ready to school.
But now I'm awake and seeing that the 20-year educational project in Myanmar has created a basic education curriculum that is somewhat unfair for children in conflict especially in the subject of history in basic education level. It has been learned in history classes that the armed ethnic groups whose wishes is to contribute positive changes for each respective native state are terrorists against the nation. While this has been the messaging we learn on paper, on the other hand, I also see ethnic groups struggling to be alive, living in IDP camps, losing their rights in the society. The old and the young pass the days with sadness, imperfections, loneliness and hopelessness. How unfair that life is!
But little by little, some children living in IDPs camps have been attending schools thanks to some civil society organizations making efforts to support them. However, it is still uncertain whether the they and or the government will continue to support getting an equal chance for continuous learning of the children in IDP camps especially with Myanmar's situation now. How could the alphabet be chronological for them now?
Little Things, Little Steps
Little things could hurt most, photos mentioned about classrooms broken into pieces and the children running away from the airstrikes and sleeping under the trees. It really hurts to see the pictures of scattered pieces of wood, books and teaching aids destroyed by the airstrikes of the military in conflict areas controlled by armed public forces. As a woke youth, I am getting rid of the racist education I grew up behind and start to advocate for a peaceful education, a potential to know and think in reality to somehow understand the issue and those affected by it. Therefore, yesterday’s chaos could already become today’s certainty that a positive impact in the education should be made in the society. In spite of not knowing what, how, and how much could be done for the oppressed, let us have a mindset of being responsible and accountable not to spread racism from classrooms again in the future and make valuable dialouges.
Remembering those times I serve as a teacher guide for Karen ethnic children, I heard that some children would have wish to learn English well when their friends were greeting, “Hello, how are you?”. And they would hope to learn also all subjects through their mother tongue. Their eyes purely seemed clear to know the world and eager to communicate with the unfamiliar ones.
On the other hand, a shameful experience I had also learned was when I heard a high schooler saying, “I am going to join the Karen Army after the matric exam”. I was silent with surprise at first and replied, “Hum! why do you want to join?” convincinging to join the university instead without fully understanding him. I should have probe and listen why. How judgmental I was!
Behind prejudice in education has made me blind for many years that ethnic armed groups are terrorists, the reason of violence and civil wars in the country. Therefore, here is my deepest apology to the oppressed ethnic people for having wrong sense and here’s also my deepest hope and call that the ethnicity will get an opportunity to be heard, for children to learn his own mother language in school, and that the government would consider drawing an educational policy that implements all-inclusive education.
Education is the foundation to bring positive change with creative consciousness in the community and oppositely, contemporary curriculum that constrains freedom could be created through education. Then, in implementing education with freedom, teachers need to be progressive and change agents along with being active in listening to children. It's time for us to listen more.
Summing up, may all children be liberated and their alphabets are ever chronological in the classroom. As for me, my first priority is to start peace, love and justice, wishing a hopeful change from the unjust society that is burdened with economic inequality, race, and social injustice.