Saturday, May 7, 2011

Libraries for Myanmar’s Monastic Schools

06 May 2011 16:26
Source: member // Karen Matthee

Myanmar has always had a thriving literary community. Books and magazines were available to rent for a few cents in every small township from stalls and public libraries. But access to reading materials, especially for poor children, has become severely limited.
Clear Path International aims to reignite the love of books and reading in Myanmar, and to extend children’s learning beyond the boundaries of the national curriculum. By partnering with a local nonprofit organization that promotes literacy and access to children’s books, CPI will create libraries in nine monastic schools within three years, and provide materials and support activities that encourage both children and parents to read at community-based libraries in suburbs of Yangon.
Clear Path is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that assists landmine survivors and others disabled or displaced by armed conflict in Southeast Asia and Afghanistan. The $20,000 monastic school project is an extension of CPI’s work along the border between Thailand and Myanmar, where CPI has provided prosthetic and rehabilitation care, psycho-social services, vocational training and socio-economic support to refugees and internally displaced landmine accident survivors since 2002.
The monastic school system once taught everyone from royal princes to unskilled workers and helped to give Burma a literacy rate above those of other Far Eastern countries in early 1900s. Nowadays, in Yangon and Mon State, monastic schools are limited to providing a free but basic education for orphans and children from the poorest families. Many of the parents are themselves illiterate.
CPI has found that these schools lack basic teaching materials and skills to instill a love of reading. The six schools in Yangon included in the project do not have libraries. The three schools in Mon State have areas designated for libraries but do not have appropriate, good-quality books or the skilled personnel to manage the libraries. In general, public access to reading materials, especially for children, is almost non-existent in present-day Myanmar. Bookshops charge about 5,000 Kyats per children’s book ($5.50 US), putting them out of the reach of most parents.
Only good quality books, some in Myanmar and some in English, will be donated to the monastic schools located in several townships. Each school will receive 300 new books and will allow students to enjoy dedicated library time. Teachers or volunteer librarians will be taught each term to catalogue and maintain the books, and to manage the libraries. Additionally, representatives from CPI’s partner organization will work with teachers and parents to improve their ability to read effectively to children.  Children will be encouraged to perform simple comprehension exercises through school and library-based competitions.
The project begins June 1, 2011 and is estimated to benefit 3,461 children and more than 100 teachers, as well as the families of the students.