Hnin Nwe | DMG
August 6, Sittwe 

To date only two basic education high schools have been able to reopen in Paletwa Township, Chin State, though there are plans to reopen 15 schools for the 2020-2021 academic year, according to the office of the township education officer. 

“Currently, more than 40 students from No. 2 Basic Education High School in Paletwa town, and over 180 students from the B.E.H.S. [branch] located at the military’s No. 289 Light Infantry Battalion, can do their learning in Paletwa Township,” said Salai Min Aung, the Paletwa Township education officer. 

“Only two schools meeting the Grade-A standards required for preventive measures against COVID-19 have been allowed to reopen with the permission of township doctors. Students from the other schools are unable to do their learning as the schools fail to meet Grade-A standard,” he told DMG. 

More than 1,000 students have yet to attend class for the 2020-21 academic year as the 13 schools that they are enrolled in have not satisfied the pandemic-related requirements, according to the education officer’s office. 

Efforts are being made to enable the schools to meet Grade-A standard required for school reopening. But among other concerns, the schools have yet to receive needed personal protective equipment, said Salai Min Aung.

 “Due to some delays, COVID-19 protective gear is still in transit. The vehicles have stopped as there are heavy rains and landslides. We can do nothing as we have not received them yet,” he explained. 

Meanwhile, some students are expressing consternation at the prospect of an indefinitely postponed return to the classroom.  

Ma Nwe Soe Win, a high school student from Paletwa Township, said: “I feel worried that I might miss some lessons as the education system has changed. There are no graduates in my family and [among my] relatives. I alone have a chance to pursue my education.” 

There are as many as 3,000 internally displaced students in Paletwa Township, many of whom worry that the added complexity of their circumstances might mean they miss even more schooling.  

“Parents are unable to pay tuition fees as they come from other areas and have to take shelter,” said Ma Hsan May Thein, who is sheltering at Withudar Monastery. “We are looking forward to school reopening. It is impossible for an IDP like me to do learning if the schools are unable to reopen this year.” 

“It is OK for those from the downtown areas to attend the schools as they can afford to pay money. They can send their children to tuition-based [learning opportunities] even if the schools are unable to reopen. But my children and other internally displaced students are unable to do it,” said U Kyaw Hla, a parent who also sought refuge at Withudar Monastery. 

“I feel so sorry as I can do nothing for the education of my children and I have to rely on donations as an IDP.” 

There are a total of 38 basic education high schools in Paletwa Township, 23 of which are not slated to open at all during the current academic year due to problems including conflict between the military and the Arakan Army. 

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