Our response to the coup of 1st February 2021:

 

  On top of the year-long pandemic, Myanmar society is presently convulsed by a military coup on 1st February which has thrown up a new set of risks.  Widespread protests have been met with harsh measures by security forces, including live gunfire, often with little warning.  Covid and coup together have affected both security and the economy of the country.

 

  In response to the pandemic, we adapted how we provide education so as to ensure Covid-safety.  Some classes were taking place in shifts of small socially distanced groups, while others were operating with a combination of self-study worksheets and home visits.  Following the coup, depending on the locality, it could be perilous for teachers and children to travel to and from their classes:

 

“We do not know where or when the danger will come – bullets, fire, random arrests.  We cannot sleep at night.”

 

Also, there is a risk of groups of young people falling under suspicion, and coming to immediate harm as a result.  Thus our non-formal education classes, in all but a few areas, have had to be suspended for the present.  However, teachers still keep contact with students and their families by phone and home visits.

 

  As for the older students attending E4Y college and residing at our Learning Centre, routines were adjusted to be Covid-safe.  The college provided online education, and we were able to continue with a good learning environment and homework support.  A donor organisation from Australia provided extra online computing classes.  Following the coup, the college suspended classes and restrictions imposed on internet providers severely limited online provision.  Because of the risk to groups of young people, the decision was made to provide students with laptops, and transport them back to their villages until the situation improves. 

 

  With many banks and government departments not functioning, Myanmar's economy is nearing paralysis.  This is having a devastating effect on families who were on the breadline, even when things were good.  Not only are they losing their incomes, but food and fuel prices are increasing.  Economic failure can push families deep into debt, or precipitate decisions that could devastate their children’s lives.

 

  From the beginning, the strategy of S4SK and H4SS has included social protection along with education, and our response has been to rebalance these to meet the current situation.  Thus, we have increased our emergency fund, and are providing families with food hampers and whatever else they need to survive.  At the same time, we are encouraging parents to be patient, to support their children’s study during this period, and to be sure to bring them back to continue their learning after it is over. 

 

  Staff have at various times taken initiatives to avert street violence, and where families of our students have suffered persecution, we are ready to support them.  We keep regular contact with each other, though with the closure of mobile data provision group meetings take longer with successive phone calls.

 

  This all might seem rather bleak, and indeed it is.  However, we have been experiencing and engaging with problems from the outset, and we are determined to do the best we can for the benefit of our students and their families in this situation too!  Please hold our staff, children and their families in your thoughts at this difficult time.

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