UN agency welcomes Thai decision to expand education for Myanmar refugees

20 December 2005
Refugee children from Myanmar

The United Nations refugee agency today enthusiastically welcomed Thailand’s decision to provide broad educational services to over 140,000 refugees from Myanmar living along the border in nine camps in the country.

“We are delighted by this enlightened decision, which will make a real and substantial difference to tens of thousands of refugees who are desperate to broaden their educational opportunities,” Hasim Utkan, the regional representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

Under the new initiative, which followed discussions with UNHCR over the past few months, the Thai office of the Non-formal Education Commission will not only provide teachers of Thai, English and occupational skills, but will also supply educational materials such as computers, textbooks, and televisions.

The programme is expected to start in 2006. Since June 2005, the Thai Education Ministry allocated a budget of $225,000 for the development of educational programmes. Additional funds of some $500,000 will be needed for the programme implementation, UNHCR said.

Until now, some 45,000 refugee children have been taught a limited curriculum by volunteer refugee teachers and non-governmental organizations working with very few resources in schools built out of bamboo thatch. Schooling ended after Grade 10.

Refugee opportunities for further education without Thai language skills were extremely limited, UNHCR explained, leaving many refugee children without higher educational prospects and little to do in the camps. Vocational training was also restricted to activities such as candle- and soap-making, weaving, sewing and agricultural projects.

Currently, refugees are not allowed to work in Thailand but the Government is now reconsidering this policy, the agency said.


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