Finding Safe Places to Grow

Myanmar Network of Community Colleges

In Myanmar, the Society of Jesus has consistently demonstrated remarkable concern and support for the people, especially in the field of education. In the face of the country’s political tensions and crises, the Jesuits have insisted on this mission with a spirit of resilience and dedication.

Against the backdrop of a devastating civil war, a network of community colleges provides safe places for young people who have missed out on other chances for education. These colleges, often the only educational opportunity available for young people, stands as a beacon of hope against conflicts springing from a coup d’état in 2021 that halted the country’s democratic progress. This conflict has left the country’s youth vulnerable, adversely impacted education and health services and has forced many to flee abroad.

The Jesuit-run formal educational institutions attract youth from the margins, providing an alternative that fosters hope and resilience. A coordinating centre, Myanmar Network of Community Colleges (MNCC), gathers the various centres, accompanies their key personnel, and offers curriculum development, teacher formation, models of working and other forms of assistance.

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The educational programs also cater to many in Myanmar who would otherwise move to Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, Japan or Saudi Arabia to seek for jobs or further their education. Lately, there is a rush to escape forced conscription as many young people are haunted by recently imposed conscription laws. One teacher at a community college wrote recently, “unfortunately three of our students were selected when their names were drawn by lots in the offices of their local quarter. So, they quit from school and are preparing to go abroad.

Despite the risks, the community college has proven successful in Myanmar. The model adopted in Myanmar is borrowed from India which in turn borrowed elements from the Nativity Schools and other programs in the USA. The colleges are set up and run by local religious congregations and are located in poor communities in a “bottom up” approach. Typically, the courses last 9-12 months for a cohort of 20-30 boys and girls aged 17-25, including a supervised work placement. The courses offer a holistic formation aimed at employment with a concentration on ‘Livelihood Skills’, ‘Language Skills’ and ‘Life Skills’.

Life skills help students navigate their hostile environment with confidence and courage, livelihood skills vary based on the needs and opportunities offered by possible business partners in the local environment, and language skills, focused on English and sometimes Chinese, helps to improve employability.

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In many troubled communities, these community colleges are a safe place for youth to study, meet with their peers and share experiences. They embody Aung San Suu Kyi’s belief that “true peace and prosperity is predicated on human development”. Indeed, the colleges are not only about education, but they also nurture hope and empower the youth to shape their destiny and contribute to their nation’s rebuilding.

In a letter of thanks to MNCC from one college, the teacher wrote: “Each person is trying his or her own best. No matter how slowly they are, we understand that each student needs his or her own pace to grow, to explore their inner or within strengths. We will do our best more and more. Thank you, Jesuits and MNCC, for supporting us to have this meaningful journey and lifetime.

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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