Since the Burmese Army’s coup in February 2021, tens of thousands of Burmese citizens have been internally displaced. Seven months later, the army is still using violence to crack down on public opposition. Life has changed for all people in Burma, but the situation for Burmese schoolchildren is of particular concern. Students have already lost over a year of schooling to closures for Covid-19 and now many children feel unsafe attending reopened schools because they are frequently bombed. The army claims that the anti-coup movement is responsible for the bombings, but the anti-coup movement swears it would not harm civilians and believes the bombings are a military tactic to weaken the opposition. Regardless of who is responsible, it is clear that normal school facilities are not safe.

Thousands of people from vulnerable villages have fled to the jungle for safety. Among them are young school teachers who have developed makeshift schools in the new environment. Students attend classes beneath clearings in the trees and take exams besides streams not far from where they sleep. Some education actors have also constructed temporary school facilities in areas they hope are safe. The jungle programming provides students with critical access to academic instruction, socialization, and a semblance of normalcy and routine.


The work of these Burmese educators is a testament to community resilience. However, the extreme stress these teachers and school staff are working under is cause for concern. In addition to protecting their students, they are confronting personal traumas, like the twenty-year-old schoolteacher from Ler Cher Ko whose father was recently gunned down by the Burmese military. Teaching with scarce resources in such tense conditions is also not a sustainable practice. While children are enjoying the jungle programming, it is unclear how long it will go on and how long it will be able to provide lasting academic and socioemotional support. Some of the temporary schools have also suggested closing to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The future of education for Rohingya refugee children is also in question. The Burmese army has been violently persecuting the Rohingya for decades and approximately 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Burma since 2017. Many went to Bangladesh, but the Bangladeshi government has not permitted them to integrate into Bangladeshi society. Instead, the government prevents them from accessing social services in order to encourage their return to Burma. Rohingya children in Bangladesh have thus not had access to schooling outside of programs in refugee camps. Before the 2021 military coup, these students hoped to be able to return to Burma in a few years, but that would not be safe now. Rohingya children who are still in Burma are at even greater risk, as the Burmese army continues to carry out ethnic genocide.


In denying Burmese children safe access to inclusive education, both the Bangladeshi government and the Burmese government are violating basic human rights. The innovative resilience shown by community-based education organizations is promising, but they could use more resources and protection to ensure a stable future.


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