The pandemic has affected unprecedently to education globally and schools in 195 countries were forced to shut in April 2020. Myanmar was one such country. Educational institutions in Myanmar have been closed nationwide since 24th March of 2020 as two cases of covid-19 outbreak were reported.
Lack of facilities and preparation to initiate online education cost critical academic years as students couldn’t continue the formal education since the closure.
On 21st July, the Ministry of Education stated to resume high schools ensuring strict protocols and safety measures. Despite careful execution of the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Plan, the second wave of local transmission in August put schools to a close and had to send students home.
The Political Catastrophe
People were expected to reopen basic education schools and institutions in the year 2021, following a slowdown of the outbreak and a vaccination plan to roll out in the country. However, the tragic event took place on 1st February 2021 as the military launched the coup and seized total control of the country.
In response to injustice, students and teachers joined growing anti-coup protests and Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) to oppose the military and showed their stand in the prominent roles alongside civilians. In May, more than 125,000 teachers were suspended by the military followed by the suspension of around 19,500 university staff across Myanmar.
Despite arrest risks, students and teachers are standing up bravely for their faith in the face of the coup to restore democracy and bring peace to the nation.
Students and School Closure
It has been one year and a half since the shutdown and students are managing their own to access education from home. Home learning such as online courses, virtual programs, webinars, etc. are the majority of students’ way of learning in this tough time.
"I reread books from the previous academic years and take the online courses to narrow down the learning gap during the closure,” said an economics student who joined CDM since the coup began. “I started internship and volunteer programs which are related to my study to earn experience,” she said.
Even though students are trying for learning continuity, they are profoundly undergoing stress and depression. They presume that ease of learning in this tragic time especially during the coup to be selfish while many students and youths out there were taking intensive military training and joining People’s Defense Forces (PDF) which are armed civilian groups that emerged to protect and consolidate against the military.
Minn, a med student said, "I tried to be productive before the coup through online learning and teaching young students even though I couldn't enjoy campus life”.
“Everything has changed since the coup. I have no will to study and cannot concentrate on self-development as it seems selfish to me if I do such activities while many youths are committed and devoted to the revolution. It’s just not fair,” he added.
Education in Distress
The cost of covid and the coup to education led to distress for lots of students who were missing academic years to date, and the current coup made it even worse. There are however youths who did not find stress in the school closure but only in the coup.
"School closure during covid didn’t make me feel stressful as it was taking place globally. Yet once the coup launched in February, it was making me uncertain whether to go my profession with law as it is irrelevant in terms of the current political situation or changing to another specialization”, said a fourth-year law student from Mandalay.
Apparently, many students are feeling uncertain to get their academic degree and having said that many felt guilty for they chose not to join the armed civil revolution groups.
"I worry about my education as I am getting older while it stuck on the way. As an undergraduate student, it is utterly tough to get a job here to earn money for the revolution,” said a business student who just needs to go one year of study to earn the degree.
Regardless of the pandemic and undergoing coup, the people of Myanmar are optimistic for the post-coup period. The spring revolution in Myanmar is a wake-up call for the people to work on inclusive social and educational change for the generations to come.
In the call of the revolution for justice, individuals’ will and support go a long way and it is a responsibility of each and every one of the civilians to stand alongside rather than personal choice to sit on the fence.
Education is imperative, yet everyone has a role to play and so are the students and youths. They hence ought to find the right balance of learning continuity and constant contribution to the revolution, and do the best what they can to restore justice and democracy.
Despite the tragedy and hardship undergoing by students and teachers, they are keeping their chin up for their unwavering faith and commitment as the only way to go back to school is to make justice prevail.