A visit to one Karen Women Organization ( KWO ) supported dormitory in Karen State
In April 2012, I went with 5 KWO colleagues to Doo Tha Htu district in Karen State. Among other activities we also visited a student dormitory that has been supported for several years through KWO and individual friends. There are 30 students who live full time in that dormitory. During our visit we met with 21 of them (12 girls 9 boys). The other students had gone home to their villagers for the summer school holiday. The students were excited to see us and we were very happy to meet them as well. We sat in a circle at the dormitory carer’s house and we introduced ourselves. We asked the students why they had come to live in this dormitory.The students replied:
- “There is only a small primary school in my village and I want to continue high school so I came and attend high school in this village. I have no relatives to stay with here so I stay in the dormitories.”
- “The cost of study is too expensive, and my parents cannot support me and if I do not stay in the dormitory I could not continue my education.”
- “Some villages where we come from are three hours walk one way. The distance is too far to walk every day so I stay in dormitory.”
- “Some of us are orphans and we have no one to care for us and so we live in dormitory.”
We also wanted to find out what the students wanted to do when they finished school and what do they dream of. Most students replied:
- Nurse and Medic
- Working with KWO
We also asked them to draw a picture of their dream village of how they would like to see their village one day. They had to think of what kind of development they wanted to see in their villages, they had to think about it and put it into drawing. We gave the students about half an hour and after that each student presented their drawing and explained it to the big group. We noticed in most of their drawings, something in common: We saw in most drawings, the Karen Flag hanging in front of the schools, and there were wells, toilets and good roads in their villages. These are important to them because currently in their villages, there are only few toilets and in the school there is only one toilet, it is for the teachers use. In their villages now in front of the school there is only the Burmese flag, so they would like to see the Karen flag instead of the Burmese one. There is very few or no well in their villages and most villagers use one river to get water and this river is used by both animals and people for bathing and drinking. During the raining season the river floods and there is lots of mud in the river and it is hard for them to drink.
For us from KWO, it was very satisfying to see these young people thinking of water and toilets as important and as essential things in their dream village. It was inspired too, to see Karen flag flying in front of their schools. The school in the village where the dormitory is only goes up to grade eight, not the end of high school. After that they will have to find another school if they want to finish high school. Many students from the village in Karen State have come to the refugee camps along the border to study until they finish high school and have lived in dormitories that KWO support. In the refugee camps, KWO supports currently 16 dormitories with over 600 students from Karen state.
As the school year starts again in May 2012, we are still looking for funding for this dormitory in this village. We rely solely on donations so some years, we do not have enough money to support them, and the KWO at village level has to borrow money to buy food for them. We have to thank Australia Karen Organization (AKO) Women Departments for contributing annually to this dormitory. The dormitory students also do fund raising themselves. They sell snacks and have luck draws during any community events. They raise chickens to eat at the same time to sell them and buy other food and needs. In 2011 we provided some funding for their building and we were very pleased to see the newly built dorm, which was not completely, finished but was in good condition. We will continue to support this dormitory and continue looking for funding to support children having access to basic education. We would like to thank all individuals who donated money to KWO. We are able to provide support to these children because of your support. We hope you will continue to support us to fulfill the dream of these children.
Written by Naw K’nyaw Paw, Education Program Coordinator, Karen Women Organization (KWO)