A campaign called, “Their Hands, Our Future” has been set up in Rangoon to raise awareness for children whose parents cannot afford to send them to school.
Aung Nyein Chan and his team have collected the handprints of children around Rangoon and he aims to exhibit them at the National League for Democracy’s Education Network art exhibition in April.
“The purpose of the campaign is to highlight the children’s future, which is the same as our country’s future,” he said.
So far he has collected over 400 handprints.
Last year Burma started free compulsory education for primary school students – a first step in educational reform.
But many families, like Aye San’s, still cannot afford to send their children to school.
“My husband passed away and we have seven children. I can’t afford to send them to school,” Aye San said.
“Each of them has to learn four to six subjects and each textbook costs more than 200 Kyat.”
Education activists say free schooling is the first step but families need more of a support structure in place to help with financial difficulties.
Nicholus Tint Zaw, nutrition programme editor for Save the Children, said poverty affects children’s ability to learn.
“When parents are in poverty, it also affects the nutrition of the children. Even when they are in school, they cannot use their full potential,” he said. “To fulfil the free education aim, there should be considerations for all the sectors.”
The NLD has set up an Education Network, which aims to establish schools and educational access in under-developed areas.
Aung Nyein Chan will show the handprints of all the children he has collected to raise awareness of their situation.
“By showing the board of handprints, organisations inside and outside of the country, international organisations and the government would know about these problems after the exhibition,” said Aung Nyein Chan.
He hopes that if enough people highlight the problems poor children face, policy makers will be compelled to make a significant change in the education sector and improve children’s rights.