Our second in our series of Partner Spotlight for Education month focuses on our partner in Myanmar, Educational Empowerment.
A successful pedagogical environment is dependent on many factors. However, perhaps aside from students themselves, there are a few factors as essential as well trained teachers and classroom resources (books, pens, paper etc.). Indeed, one of the significant reasons why Burmese students don’t finish school is precisely for a lack of these very things. Educational Empowerment is fighting that cause. We caught up with them and asked them to give us the skinny on who they are, what they do, and why you should join our Give Together program and donate to their inspiring cause.
What is the inspiration behind your organization?
When we learned that the libraries and books available to families in the early 1980’s disappeared with the military takeover – and learned that most children have never seen or even touched a picture book, it broke our hearts. Something that we take for granted, books, aren’t accessible to children in Myanmar. Educational Empowerment (EE) founders decided we wanted to bring books and the joy of reading to the poverty-stricken Burmese children.
What’s the story behind your project?
Shule Myint Zu, one of the schools we support in Yangon, has six grades and over 200 students in one large, noisy room. The six teachers care deeply about their students, but most lack a formal education beyond the age of sixteen, have no training in educational practices, and have little or no access to training materials and classroom learning aids. This school, like others in nunneries and monasteries, tries to practice a more child-centered approach to learning, and teach more critical thinking skills as opposed to the rote learning methods of the government schools. When we asked those teachers what they needed most to be more effective, training and materials was the unanimous top choice. We’re glad that we can support these women in their goal to become better teachers and role models for their students and empower both through education.
How did you become connected with Jolkona?
We knew of Jolkona from first hand experience through another international NGO. As EE planned to utilize a grass roots funding approach, it was a logical step to connect with Jolkona. Jolkona provides an easy mechanism for small dollar donors to make a large impact, especially as funds donated to EE provide excellent value.
Can you tell us a bit more about your project and how it’s going currently?
EE has partnered with Yinthway Foundation, a Yangon-based organization that provides teacher training throughout Myanmar. It is often difficult and expensive for teachers to attend these sessions, so EE provides funding for travel, accommodations and training tuition. A month-long session provides in-depth training for teachers who have had little or no formal education beyond high school. EE also plans to return to Myanmar in December 2013 to videotape a primary education session for DVD distribution to hundreds of teachers both in cities and in outlying ethnic states who are not able to personally attend sessions. Yinthway believes in a child-centered approach to learning that fosters creative and critical thinking for problem solving and education.
What kind of lasting change does the project hope to engender?
Teacher training will improve teacher retention rates. Empowering women provides them with confidence to strive for higher goals and be on the path to socio-economic improvement. Education nurtures hope for a better life for women and children. EE also supports sustainable models that provide for long-term independence.
So say I give $XX to the project, can you explain a little further the impact that is achieved?
$50 will provide basic classroom materials, such as paper, pencils, and chalk, for 50 students for one year.
$100 will provide a teacher with classroom learning materials for one year. This could include laminated posters for use in creative story telling and group discussions, puzzles and games for math, and simple science experiment supplies.
$200 gives a teacher who has no formal education beyond age sixteen, a one-month intensive training course to more effective in her classroom.
We love stories at Jolkona. Do you have a favorite impact story you can share?
One of our initial goals was to create a greater local awareness of Myanmar through a literacy exchange program. Sixth grade students here at Hyla Middle School created “culture frames”, a type of self-portrait telling about their interests, family, friends and activities. When we presented these photos and stories to the staff at Shule Myint Zu, their eyes lit up with excitement. The children there loved seeing kids from the U.S. and immediately set to work making their own culture frames, full of pride of their villages and families, for us to bring back to the Hyla students. Those sixth graders are now making simple illustrated storybooks to be translated into Burmese script for the Shule Myint Zu students. This sister school relationship is another way to provide learning in a simple, affordable manner. The joy of learning about kids so far away, in a very different culture, has been tangible in both schools and it is a thrill to ignite that spark of learning.
In a nutshell, why should someone give to this project?
Myanmar is finally opening up to the world after decades of isolation. The new school year has just started. Timing is optimum to measurably impact these female teachers’ opportunities to be successful through education and training, to be positive role models, and to provide hope for the future. Your support can make an amazing and significant difference in the lives of these children.