Greater support for the educational sector in Myanmar is an urgent priority, a senior United Nations relief official said at a donors meeting, calling for more resources in the country’s schools, many of which were destroyed by last year’s devastating Cyclone Nargis.
“The international community should increase its efforts, in cooperation with the Government of Myanmar and local organizations, in order to promote quality education for all children and youth,” said Bishow Parajuli, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, said at yesterday’s gathering in Yangon.
He urged heads of diplomatic missions, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to shape educational policy in Myanmar by actively engaging with the Government and directing funds to schools in order to help achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of universal primary education.
Mr. Parajuli noted that there are shortages of learning material and qualified teachers and that opportunities for further education or vocational training for dropout students are limited, stressing that efforts should be made to reach all out-of-school children.
Participants at meeting also visited several villages in the Ayeyarwady Delta to see first-hand the progress made in rebuilding Government and Monastic schools, training teachers and establishing community based early childhood care and development centres, as well as a observing children in overcrowded classrooms with nothing but plastic sheeting on the walls.
“Over half a million children in the affected areas have benefited from education support, since Cyclone Nargis destroyed and damaged over 4000 schools of which 1,255 completely collapsed,” said UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Deputy Representative Juanita Vasquez.
“More efforts are required to increase education opportunities to children not only in the delta, but also in the rest of the country,” added Ms. Vasquez, who accompanied the field trip.
So far, 1,400 schools in the delta have been repaired in the bid to rebuild all the destroyed schools by April 2011 with permanent structures designed to reduce the risk of potential future disasters. According to the Post-Nargis Recovery and Preparedness plan (PONREPP), some $157 million is needed by the education sector over the next three years.