Background of DEAR Burma
We work hard to help both male and female Burmese adults and children to integrate smoothly into their communities and at their jobs. Together, with our volunteer teachers, we operate the school to improve the lives of over 1.000 (and growing) students giving them the strength, confidence, and educational skills to have the same chances that their Thai counterparts have. Coming from insurmountable odds in their own country, often escaping to start a better life in Thailand and supporting their remaining family in Burma, the students attend the school on their own will. Due to the conflict in Burma, many of the students come from different ethnic groups such as Shan, Karen, Rakhine, Kayah, Mon, Kachin, Nepali, Padung and Indian and face the task of starting from nothing. No matter the background, all students wear a uniform of a white shirt and dark pants/shorts or skirt, bringing them all to an equal playing field and creating a sense of equality and mutual respect. The simple-but-progressive skills given to the thousands of students over the course of the 10 years Dear Burma has been in operation have changed the everyday lives of every one of them. One by one, student by student, Dear Burma is here to teach.
When the school first began operations in Sept 2002, classes were conducted in front of Ramkamhaeng University’s student club building, where they stayed for several months. The workers organised the classes themselves although it proved quite a hurdle to draw people at first. Refugees and activists also joined the classes eventually. In Feb of 2003 the Thai-Burma Coordinating Committee later decided the school should move to the Christian Students Centre in Bangkok and Myint Wai took the helm of the school. In May of 2005 they moved to the current location where they have remained up until now.
About the Deputy Director Myint Wai
Headmaster Myint Wai, 55, a former student who fled the military crackdown in 1988, has been a source of hope and offers help to fellow Myanmar citizens in need, including migrant workers. He graduated with a B.A. degree in economics from Yangon University and currently resides in Bangkok.
He attributes the success of the school to the wide range of assistance it gets, including help from organisations and political groups inside Myanmar, which have supported and monitored the work of the school. He has said, in reference to the school, that it is negotiating with both ministries to be recognised as a vocational training institute in Thailand.
English is taught to the students on four levels:
Pre-Beginner 2 sub-levels
Beginner 4 sub-levels (L-1A to L-1D)
Elementary 3 sub-levels ( L-2A to L-2C)
Pre-Intermediate 3 sub-levels (pre-1 to pre-3)
After as few as one or two semesters many of the students gain the skill and confidence to hold a conversation in English. With their gained skills in English many are able to find jobs in numerous fields relating to tourism, sales, etc, giving them new hopes and ambitions.
There are 5 different levels of Thai language courses (Thai L-1 – Thai L-5). Some levels have as many as 10 classes and some with as few as 2.
With the hard work and dedication every student brings with them every week, after a bit of learning nearly every student can conversate and even find jobs in the Thai community. Also, being able to speak Thai helps protect them from being exploited, abused, or sent back to Burma.
While Burmese is the official language of the country and the mother language of the Bamar, many of the students come from Shan State, Karen State, Chin State, and other remote areas where the language is not Burmese but rather their local language.
To better educate them and give them the opportunity to return to Burma to work in the future, or even to help them build relationships with other migrant workers living in Thailand, DEAR Burma offers Burmese language courses.
As of late we have started to offer different courses to branch out and give more hope and opportunity to our students. We now offer computer courses, Photography, and other classes, as well as a fully stocked library with books in numerous languages.