Ongoing armed conflict has led to the closure of 14 schools, affecting about 1,250 children in three townships in central Shan State’s Loilem District, according to a report released by the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) on Tuesday.
Nang Hseng Hearn, a Shan language teacher in Mong Hsu Township, told SHAN that the new semester is supposed to begin shortly, but many children in the area have been displaced by the continued clashes and are now unable to attend school.
“Villagers are afraid to go back home, so how can the schools open when there is no one living in the village?” Nang Hseng Hearn said. “Now we are preparing to build a temporary school for the children so that they have a place to study,” she added.
Shelling throughout October by the Burma Army—beginning a week before the October 15 signing of a ceasefire agreement with eight ethnic armed groups—has forced more than 6,000 people from their homes in Kesi, Mong Hsu and Mong Nong Townships. These areas are controlled by the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N), who, like the majority of ethnic armed organizations, was not a signatory to the agreement.
Statistics on the destruction caused by the current offensives differ: according to SHRF, 22 villages have suffered damage or displacement from the fighting, but local SHAN sources claim that 50 villages—nearly 1,400 households—have been impacted.
The affected villages include Wan Hai, Wan Ba Kee, Wan Par Moong, Wan Koon Keng, Wan Nur, Wan Lwe, Nam Soam, Nar Bea, Mong Ak, Wan Kyaung and Wan Tam.
Data on education is difficult to obtain in Shan State’s war zones. In 2012, SHAN reported on the state of primary education in a fourth township in Loilem District: Kunhing, which, like the three mentioned above, is also classified as a conflict area.
Graduate research conducted by a Shan education scholar, Nang Zawm Aye, revealed that only one-third of Kunhing’s children were enrolled in school, and up to 75 percent of the township’s children do not finish primary school.
According to the study, one of the factors contributing to low graduation rates in the area is “hostility” from the Burma Army.
By SAI AW / Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.)