School attendance down in cyclone-hit areas

Jan 2, 2009 (DVB), The number of children attending basic education schools in cyclone-affected areas has dropped since last year, but officials are not keeping adequate records, according to a teacher from Bogalay township.

The teacher said it was not clear what had happened to the former pupils.

"Their numbers are down in schools; it is not clear whether they have moved to other schools or are just not attending school anymore," he said.

"The education department is not handling it properly. People are still in plastic tents," he said.

"The pupils listed on the original registers are not present, but no one is keeping a record."

In addition to the high death toll from Cyclone Nargis, many people lost their homes and livelihoods when the cyclone hit Burma in May, leaving them unable to afford to send their children to school.

Buddhist monks and non-governmental organisations have been teaching poor and disadvantaged children but some of these students have been barred from taking official examinations.

"Eleven children who had been taught by monks were told they were not entitled to sit the exams because they hadn’t attended the government school," the teacher said.

"Instead of helping them, the authorities are ignoring them."

Teaching hours have also been reduced due to the lack of support from officials and as teachers spend time away from the classroom working on reconstruction efforts.

The teacher said the chief education officer had still not distributed 5830 sheets of corrugated iron which were donated to schools by UNICEF and are still being stored in warehouses.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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