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Platform Classroom runs classes for children in Mandalay who can’t afford after-school tuition.
But the ad hoc tuition is set up on a sidewalk next to the Mandalay Central Railway station. It has become the learning centre for almost 40 children – many of whom are homeless and shelter at the station.
Sein Win, founder of the programme, says the biggest challenge is the weather.
“I think it would be impossible to rent a place because apartment rental fees around here are between 500,000 and 800,000 kyat [US$500-$800) per month and we don’t have that budget”, he said. “Also, if it rains we need to stop the classes and take shelter. If it keeps raining, we must send the kids home and call a substitute class later.”
The seven teachers who work here are volunteers – the classes are dependent on donations, which subsidise tuition fees for a few older students, as well as the school entrance fees and learning materials for all the younger students.
According to Sein Win, most of the children are from poor families or single parents.
“Most of their parents do menial jobs such as porters, cart drivers and janitors”, he said. “Many others are single parents – usually mothers.”
Platform Classroom also provides etiquette training, taught by a monk. Media attention in the past few months has also attracted some donors.
“I read about this class in a news journal and wanted to make a contribution”, said one of them. “The classes were closed during the SEA Games, so I just offered something now.”
Platform Classroom was founded by Sein Win in 2009 and has since developed considerably.
He hopes they will soon be able to afford to rent a flat so they can continue teaching – even when it rains.