June 12, 2009 (DVB), United Nations' calls for urgent support for education in Burma have been reinforced by reports that schools in Rangoon are now reliant on donations from parents due to lack of government funding for education.
At a donor meeting in Rangoon on Wednesday the UN encouraged the international community to increase its efforts to promote education in Burma, with particular focus on the Irrawaddy delta region where around 4000 schools were destroyed last year by cyclone Nargis.
A statement released by the UN stressed that there was a shortage of learning materials and qualified teachers.
Government spending on education in Burma is around 1.2 per cent of the annual budget, while nearly 40 per cent goes to the military.
A parent in Rangoon said yesterday that small, ward-level schools are reliant on donations from pupils' families to cover expenses for school maintenance and to buy equipment such as chairs and desks.
"They have to ask for donation money from parents to buy things such as power generators, as government electricity is not available most of the time," she said.
"Also they needed money to renovate school buildings and to build new ones."
Similarly, teachers are reportedly having to use their own money to keep their schools running.
"The government never provide statistics on how much budget they use for the education because they don't want people to know how little they are spending on it," a teacher said under condition of anonymity.
Due to the meagre 30,000 kyat (US$30) monthly salary given to teachers, many are looking elsewhere for careers.
"Now only people who are really committed and passionate to teaching children choose to become school teachers," he said.
"It very hard for them as the salary they are getting is nowhere near enough to survive with the commodity prices these days."
State-run media in Burma often publishes reports about government openings of new schools, although the teacher said that these schools need a lot of financial assistance to become fully functional.
The UN has said that about US$160 million is needed to provide assistance to Burma's education sector over the next three years.
Reporting by Ahunt Phone Myat