Donor cuts nearly shut down middle school in refugee camp
July 11, 2012
HURFOM: Earlier this year, the sole donor of a middle school at the Bang Ton Yan refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border cut two thirds of its aid, nearly shutting down the school. The Thailand arm of the ZOA International had previously supported everything at the school from books to pencils to teacher salaries. In 2011, the donor cited a lack of funds and said they were unable to maintain previous levels of aid. However, ZOA also stated that by 2014, they plan to phase out their funding in Thailand to focus entirely inside Burma. These rapid and often unexpected shifts in donor funding are taking a toll on border communities, leaving organizations scrambling to maintain services or simply to keep their doors open.
A supervising school officer from Bang Ton Yan said, “They cut all of their support and we felt like we wanted to close down the school and not run it anymore. We did not know how to go forward or talk to the children’s parents and the school committees. After discussion, we decided to continue and keep the school open.”
In 2012, the Mon National Education Committee (MNEC) increased its donated materials to include all necessary textbooks and workbooks for the school’s students, and many children’s parents collected money in the refugee camp, gathering over 2,000 baht in donations. But the contributions were not enough to cover teachers’ salaries, and the school committees had to continue to seek for funding.
In 2011, a Thailand-based NGO contacted the Bang Ton Yan school to offer support. The organization spoke with committee members and asked them to submit a proposal for funding, after which the school applied and was accepted. However, the school year approached with no word from the funders. Finally, after classes began in 2012, the organization called to say they were having problems and could not provide the money.
“We faced such difficulty because of these situations. We have the teachers’ salaries for this month but, for next month, we have no idea where we will get school expenses or teacher salaries. We constantly have to think about how to get funds to continue running the school. We meet with the students’ parents and discuss together how to solve the problem. The parents give some money and some other people give donations to the school. We are grateful to the MNEC because, luckily, we got some support from their organization based in Sangkhlaburi, Thailand,” stated the school officer.
The Bang Ton Yan camp school currently employs seven teachers and serves 92 students. Known as “PAB-POC (Persons Admission Boards – Persons Of Concern) basic school,”the site has been operating since 2005 when the founding political refugees arrived at the camp. The school offers 1st through 6thgrades and targets children of Mon and Toywal ethnic groups. Most teachers are camp residents who completed at least 8th grade in Burma, and now work full time, from 9 am to 5 pm, for 1,000 Baht per month. Instruction is given in Burmese, and children from Halokhani and Tee Pa Do refugee camps also attend.