Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Non-Formal Education gives Children with Disabilities a chance to go to school

By U Kap Za Lyan, Education Field Officer, Hakha Field Office

Pyae Pyae Cho writes with her left foot as her elder sister watches
Ma Pyae Pyae Cho (aged 11) and Ma Cho Mar Oo (aged 13) are sisters and both attend a Non-Formal Primary Education class in Set Ywar village, Sagaing Division.

Like many families, Pyae Pyae Cho and Cho Mar Oo’s parents struggle to make a living doing odd jobs. "Their parents are very poor and sometimes have to go outside of the village to find work. They often cannot provide nutritious food for the children to eat", said FPE Regional Monitor, U Tin Ngwe. For this reason, the two sisters could not learn well at regular primary school.

Non-Formal Primary Education (NFPE) enables marginalised children who have dropped out of school, or who never had the chance to attend primary school, to realise their human right to education. 
The NFPE programme is aimed at children aged 10-14 years. The course takes two years and, when completed, is equivalent to achieving primary school education to Grade 5. This means that children who finish NFPE can reintegrate back into mainstream schools.

The two sisters also face additional barriers to education. Cho Mar Oo has Special Education Needs and Pyae Pyae Cho has a physical disability affecting her hands. This made it more difficult for them to learn in a regular school. “Most of the schools are not friendly to disabled children” U Tin Ngwe adds.

An NFPE class being held in the thatched roof centre in Set Ywar village
At the NFPE centre things are different, as the teachers engage with both sisters and find ways to help them learn. Pyae Pyae Cho is learning to write using her left foot. The sisters have made friends and are learning essential literacy and life skills. During monitoring it was found that the NFPE programme caters to many children with disabilities who were previously not able to access regular schooling.

Meet Tang Lian Kap Sang

Tang Lian Kap Sang learns with a group of students
at the EXCEL centre in Hau Pi village
Tang Lian Kap Sang (aged 17) is the second youngest student in his class. He  participates actively in the Extended and Continuous Education and Learning (EXCEL) programme in his village, Hau Pi, in Tedim Township, Chin State. The State is mountainous and remote with few transport links. It remains one of the least developed areas of Myanmar, with the highest poverty rate nationally (73%). 

EXCEL is a one year life-skills education programme that seeks to provide adolescents ages 10-17 years with information about health, nutrition, HIV and other relevant topics within a comprehensive child protection framework. EXCEL also provides essential literacy skills and is aimed at out-of-school children who are not likely to integrate back into mainstream schooling.

Tang Lian comes from a large family - he has 11 brothers and sisters – and he and two of his siblings all have a physical disability that affects their mobility. In the past, this meant that they had to stay home from school. However, in 2014, the EXCEL program was extended to Tang Lian’s village and he started to attend the lessons. His teachers report that he listens attentively and enjoys the classes very much.

An evening class being held in the Hau Pi centre
Non-formal education through the NFPE and the EXCEL programmes is giving marginalised and out-of-school children a second chance to achieve primary-level education and learn the essential literacy and life skills that will surely help improve their daily lives. These programmes are also helping children with disabilities to realise their right to education and fulfil their potential.

Both programmes are supported by the Quality Basic Education Programme (QBEP). QBEP aims to support the Government of Myanmar to improve access to quality school readiness and primary level education nationally, with activities focused in core disadvantaged townships.

QBEP is supported by the Multi Donor Education Fund (MDEF), comprising Australia, Denmark, the European Union, Norway and the United Kingdom, and by UNICEF in partnership with the Government of Myanmar.

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