There is a group of ethnic Chinese living in Lashio, in the northern Shan State of Myanmar. They have and established more than 90 Chinese schools without any support from the government. Many of these schools, especially those in the countryside, suffer from a lack of resources. The school premises are rudimentary and dilapidated, often housing nothing except benches and desks.
School fees are the primary source of income for these schools and go entirely to pay teachers’ salaries (roughly HK$600 to HK$1500 a month). Furthermore, the fees collected fluctuate from time to time. Some children are too poor to afford the HK$50 monthly school fees and end up having to leave school.
At the October 2017 Sowers Action Annual General Meeting, service extension to overseas was approved by the members. One month later, the Lashio working group got down to work. After first setting foot in Lashio, the group rushed to visit 13 different Chinese schools to learn about their difficulties.
The working group observed that despite the determination of the principal, teachers and villagers to run the school in a satisfactory manner, a lack of funds meant that many village schools could only use old and shabby houses as classrooms. Some smaller schools even had to squeeze 2 classes of students in one classroom for lessons. Asides from teaching, the teachers also had to double up as cleaning, repair and management staff. Due to their meagre salary, they often had to take on additional part time jobs to support themselves.
In January 2018, after thorough evaluation, Sowers Action embarked on a series of school building and ancillary initiatives. These included the rebuilding of school premises at risk of collapse, financing the renovation of dilapidated premises as well as the construction of libraries and provision of computers. Other initiatives included improving sanitary conditions in some schools by building toilets and constructing accommodation for teaching staff.