Demand Education Instead of Labor for Myanmar’s Children


Target: Thein Sein, President of Myanmar

Goal: Stop child labor and provide schooling for Myanmar’s children

In Myanmar, more than 1/3 of children are full-time workers who do not have a chance to go to school. It is true that they are entitled to be educated, but the schools that have been provided for them are not functional in any real sense of that word. Only 4.5 percent of the country’s budget is dedicated to schooling. This means that many of the schools that have been set up don’t actually operate because teachers who receive little or no payment simply stop coming to class. Even worse, the supposed free education that children are entitled to isn’t free after all. To make up for missing government funding, many schools ask students and their parents to cough up the cash to keep the schools running.

Teachers’ salaries, furniture, school supplies all become dependent on the children themselves. That means that even in the case that teachers don’t stop attending class, the students often won’t come anyway because they simply can’t afford to contribute to the school’s funding. But even in the best case scenario, where the teachers manage to scrape up enough money to make the schools run and the students manage to secure a place in class, the learning outcomes are disappointing at best. Occupied by efforts to cover the school’s expenses, the teachers are distracted from the actual purpose of their job —  tailoring their curriculum to transmit valuable knowledge to their students.

The tendency of children to slave away in factories, at the docks, or in tea shops instead of studying in schools is a vicious circle that is aggravated by the dysfunctional education system. The poor level of teaching that these children are treated to means that they won’t pass the state exams that evaluate the quality of their learning and establish their credentials. This in turn makes their parents skeptical about the value of education and leads them to resist efforts by well-meaning teachers to enroll their children in schools. One such establishment, a non-profit funded by donations, has had trouble convincing parents to let it educate their children. Viewing the classroom as a waste of time that will not help their progeny advance, they place more trust in the immediate, tangible profits obtained by manual labor. The parents’ skepticism about the educational system – underfunded, requiring payment, unreliably staffed by teachers whose curriculum lacks the rigor to allow students to pass state exams — is justified.

That is why it is so crucial that Myanmar devotes significantly much more funding to its schools. That way, well-paid teachers will be able to teach at a much higher level so that students will pass state exams and more children will be able to attend without paying additional fees. Parents will once against entrust the state with the instruction of its children once it readjusts its spending priorities to provide them with the free, good-quality education that they deserve.

Sign this petition and urge Myanmar to allocate a higher portion of its budget to education so that its children can learn instead of working.


Dear Thein Sein, President of Myanmar

It is tragic that one-third of the children in your country doesn’t have a chance to get an education but must instead labor away in factories, at the docks, or in teashops. Children’s minds need to be nurtured so that they have a chance to develop into intelligent adults capable of making the most of their lives and having access to a broad range of opportunities that only an education can provide.

The current state of children’s schooling in Myanmar is a desolate one indeed. While state-funded schools are nominally available to educate children free of charge, the meager budget allocated to the education system practically places the chance at an education beyond the reach of many. We can’t expect families to want to send their children to schools that are often missing teachers or that demand payment in return for instruction.

To ensure that children don’t waste their potential to acquire knowledge and develop their intelligence by slaving away in their youth, the government has to provide adequate conditions to give them the opportunity to learn. That’s why we ask you to adequately fund education so that every child in Myanmar can study at a school that’s truly free, offers high-quality instruction, and is reliably, not sporadically, staffed by a teacher.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: dany13 via Flickr

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