China-Myanmar educational initiative builds schools for Myanmar, lifts local education environment

Students of the Nyaung Thone Bin village school attend class in a renovated classroom. Photo by Zhao Yipu from People’s Daily
Students of the Nyaung Thone Bin village school attend class in a renovated classroom. Photo by Zhao Yipu from People’s Daily

By ZhaoYipu, Zhou Zhiran

Eighteen China-aided schools have been built in Myanmar thanks to a China-Myanmar educational initiative aiming at improving Myanmar’s education environment.

The initiative, named “Friends of Silk Road”, was jointly launched by the China Foundation for Peace and Development (CFPD) and the Myanmar Alinyaung (Brightness) Foundation (MAF) in 2015.

All the schools were funded by China and constructed by the Myanmar side. The Nyaung Thone Bin village school is one of them.

Located in Htantabin township, the school is 70 kilometers away from downtown Yangon. Before it was renovated, the school was only half the size of a football field enclosed by bamboo fences. Three bungalows and a well constructed by the local government – that was all facility the school had.

Because there were not enough classrooms, students of senior grades had to have classes in a thatched shed where no wall was built to prevent the wind, introduced Mrs. Thi hi Aung, school master of Nyaung Thone Bin Village school.

Annoyed by mosquito, insects, snake and rat bites, the students had to also endure puddles in the “classroom” that could even cover their ankles when it rained, she said.

In 2017, the CFPD aided ten standard teaching buildings to 10 rural schools, including the Nyaung Thone Bin village school. Built with bathrooms and electric supply, these buildings meet the standards set by Myanmar’s Ministry of Education, and all the old teaching buildings of these schools were renovated.

In January, 2019, the Nyaung Thone Bin village school was completed and delivered. The three classrooms, covering an area of more than 100 square meters, could accommodate 140 students, enabling all the students from senior grades to move to new classrooms.

The school had 265 students – a number it was hardly able to handle, but now it accepts 313 after the new school building was put into use, said Thi hi Aung.

In the past, students from surrounding villages went to school by boat, and some had to wade through water and mud, said Mr.Aye Htun, head of the village, pointing to pictures of how the students used to go to school.

“Now, with the help of our Chinese friends, children in my village and surrounding villages have easier access to education,” said the village head.

About 70 percent of Myanmar’s population lives in the rural areas, and they have extremely insufficient education resources, said Mr. Thein Ye, Former Parliamentarian of Myanmar, who added that the “Friends of Silk Road” initiative has significantly improved the conditions of rural schools in Myanmar.

Thanks to the close cooperation between China and Myanmar, the “Friends of Silk Road” initiative has been on smooth progress in recent years, providing rich education resources for local schools.

“For Myanmar to develop its rural areas, the first thing is to develop education well. We hope to expand cooperation with our Chinese friends and we will always remember the “Paukphaw” (fraternal) friendship between our two countries,” said Thein Ye.

“In rural Myanmar, a school is a symbol of hope. The expectations of the parents, the dreams of the students, the development of the region, and the future of the country all fall on on schools,” said Nay Lin, chairman of the MAF. “Me and my Chinese colleagues are working on these problems, as both software and hardware are needed to achieve rural educational development,” the MAF chairman added.

The “Friends of Silk Road” initiative has received strong support from the Myanmar government at various levels and been welcomed by people in the country since it was launched.

Xu Jianguo, general secretary of the CFPD, said the Myanmar students are inheritors and witnesses of China-Myanmar friendship as they study in the classrooms built with Chinese investment, adding that the CFPD will do its best to forge closer China-Myanmar people-to-people bond.

The “Friends of Silk Road” initiative is just one project under the Chinese aid for Myanmar education. At present, China and Myanmar are conducting multi-layer education cooperation, which will not only benefit the people of Myanmar, but also consolidate the foundation of China-Myanmar friendship.

Myo Thein Gyi, Myanmar’s Union Minister for Education expressed his hope that the two countries could enhance education cooperation so as to cultivate more talents for co-construction of the Belt and Road Initiative and the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor.

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