Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Thant’s making the most of his second chance

At 10 years old, Thant (pictured above) faced a decision that no Grade 5 student should have to make.

He had to decide whether he wanted to stay in a school where he was routinely caned for falling behind or drop out and find a job to help his struggling parents support his three siblings.

“I always got punished so I started skipping school,” says Thant, now 20.

“Later on the punishment from the teacher became worse and one of my legs was badly hurt. My mum felt sorry for my injury, and I also didn’t want to go to school anymore so she took me out of school.”

Failure to finish school is a major problem in Myanmar, especially among children like Thant, whose parents did not finish school.

After dropping out of school he spent two years in the workforce before finding out about a program through ChildFund Myanmar partner Shwe Chin Thae Social Service Group (SSSG), which helps out-of-school youth to return to education.

“I decided to study again because I believed I would not get corporal punishment at the centre and I would be happy,” Thant says.

He enrolled in Non-Formal Education (NFE) classes at a child development centre, where he learned Burmese, English, maths, poetry, sports and vocational skills.

After excelling in the course, ChildFund Myanmar awarded him a scholarship to do a one-year course at the TheikKhar Myanmar Institute.

The course was difficult at first, but Thant soon discovered a passion for learning.

“My favourite classes were English and environmental science,” Thant says.

After completing the course he did a three-month internship teaching children in Rakhine state, where he used his school experience to ensure his students enjoyed theirs.

“I just wanted to make the children happy,” he says. “I didn’t use the cane to teach them because I was once in their situation and I know how it feels.”

Thant now has an administrative job at TheikKhar Myanmar Institute and hopes one day he can start an organisation to protect Myanmar’s environment.

Having seen the impact education made on his life, Thant is passionate about giving children in Myanmar the opportunity to stay in school.

“I feel very sad when I see children who can’t study,” he says. “They might also want to go to school. They might want to be able to read and write. They might want to be successful.

“I wouldn’t be where I am right now at all if I hadn’t studied.”

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