Teacher Stories: Ja Aung - N Hkawng Pa IDP Camp, Myanmar
This story was collected as part of Teachers in Crisis Contexts (TiCC) Event Series to ensure that the voices and experiences of teachers working in crisis and displacement permeate all aspects of the event. For more stories, click here.
Teaching Primary School in N Hkawng Pa IDP Camp, Kachin State, Myanmar
Name: Ja Aung
School: N Hkawng Middle School
Location: N Hkawng Pa IDP Camp, Kachin State, Myanmar
What do you enjoy most about being a teacher?
The things I am most happy for are that I can share the education I have in my life to the students who are starving for education in the IDP camp in this Non-Government Controlled areas (NGCA), and seeing the smiles on the students’ faces when they are learning in the classrooms.
Here are some good practices based on my experiences that I would like to share.
- Making teaching and learning aids out of the materials around the camp, e.g. using small stone/ stick to count.
- Letting the children lead in small things they can in the classroom with proper guidance…e.g. group work in the class, or cleaning/ arranging chairs/ hanging what they draw on the wall, etc. This can help children to increase their self-confidence, to be responsible, to help one another.
- Another good practice from my previous school was that our head teacher and peer teachers support to improve my teaching. I always made my lesson plans ahead and submit to our head teacher. Our head teacher gave some comments and suggested for improvement. Sometimes, my peer teacher gave comments/advice too. Their comments and advice helped me to improve my teaching. But in most schools in remote area, head teachers need to teach too, so I am not sure whether they can give time to do those coaching. It requires not just time, but passion and skill.
- Another good practice I introduced at my previous school was- singing and dancing at the last period on every Friday for KG to Standard 2. The kids were very happy and enjoyed a lot. I believe this boosts their well-being.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a teacher?
- The biggest challenge that I face as a teacher is communication. As the schools where I teach are in the border areas between China and Myanmar, students speak different Kachin dialects and accents, not just the common Kachin language, Jinghpaw. How I adjusted was I tried to listen to them attentively and learned the language from children and other teachers.
- In addition to this, the high inflation rate and huge different value of currency between Kyats and Yuan is also a big challenge for us serving as a teacher. We receive the small amount of stipend in Kyats, yet we have to spend it in Yuan to buy the food in the areas where we are serving. Without the generous support from the community, particularly the parents, simple/decent daily meals are not sure.
- Sometimes, I wonder why I chose this path; to work as a volunteer teacher, especially whenever I face disobedience from some students and security concerns.
- For me, I am lucky that I received 9-month teacher training organized by JRS and DCE Myitkyina and it indeed helps me a lot. Nonetheless, I found that the teachers who did not receive any teacher training or trained for short term such as one week faced many challenges, as they did not get a chance to learn skills for teaching such as elements of pedagogy, school/classroom management.
What type of support would you need to work better every day as a teacher?
- Support from the parents, head teachers and students are the most crucial every day as a teacher. Cooperation, respect and sharing among volunteer teachers are also undoubtedly needed.
What would you like the rest of the world to know about your life and/or work as a teacher?
- When I first served as a volunteer teacher, I was just 19 (I joined TTC program when I was 18) and I did not know much about life at that time. But the very first year of voluntary service in Hpum Lum Yang IDP camp allowed me to grow more and start to be aware - to think about the lives of IDPs in the camp, and the education of the IDP children in those areas. It stimulates my willingness serving for the education in those remote/conflicted affected areas grow more and I decided to continue my service in next academic year (2019-2020).
What changes to programs/policies would you like to see?
- For me, I want both governments (national and local) to use the same curriculum and it would be great if the national government recognizes the education in the NGCAs.
- It would be good if there will be ongoing teacher training program for all teachers.
- The responsible authorities in the area we work should take responsibility for security of the teachers.
- Stipends for volunteer teachers need to be reviewed and increased based on the most basic needs to survive according to the context they are being assigned.
- To address the teachers’ shortage nationwide and to promote mother-tongue based multi-lingual education and to promote peace in our country, the Myanmar government should develop a policy and pathway for community teachers who received training and who served for years to become government recognized/certified teachers and can work in government schools as a career.
- Lastly, but not the least, to stop civil war! Education disruption, psychological effects, negative coping and risks to drug abuse and human trafficking, etc. are all consequences of the war.
What are some of the topics/skills that you wish to learn in a professional development program?
- Child psychology
- Subject teaching methods - I would like to be skillful in the subject that I am teaching such as Maths and Science. For example, in Science, we do not have labs where the students can experience hands-on exercises such as the laboratory experiments.
- Study/visit to explore/observe how teachers in other areas/countries are teaching in emergency or protracted or post-conflict areas.
The views expressed in this blog are the author's own.