Unseen Hands Torch New Karen School – Destroys Children’s Chance of Learning

The excitement of having a new primary school to learn in did not last long for students from Htee Klo Thaw village in Hlaingbwe Township, as their newly built school was burnt to the ground by unknown persons, just six days after its opening ceremony.

The Karen Community Based Network Group, a group that coordinated the funding for the new school confirmed to Karen News that the school was burned down on February 26.

The KCBNG, based in the East Dawna Ranges, began its school construction project in November 2014, with funding from the Norwegian People’s Aid. The total cost for the project was more than 1.4 million Thai Baht (around USD $50,000). The school opening ceremony was held on February 20.

An official from KCBNG, who asked not to be named, spoke to Karen News.

“It [the fire] started about 2pm. All furniture inside the school was burnt. Although the walls are built out of bricks, the window frames and roof frames were wooden – the fire destroyed them all.”

People are talking in the community, but not prepared to go on the record, to confirm that an influential figure is behind the fire. An official from the KCBNG said that they are now holding an inquiry into the incident to find out what had caused the burning of the school.

The building, 80 feet in length and 30 feet in width, was made of brick walls and tin roofing. It had four classrooms. The materials that were destroyed by the fire included 30 sets of chairs and tables, two cupboards, five set of chair and table for teachers, five white boards and a toilet block.

Padoh Saw Lah Say, head of the Karen Department of Education spoke to Karen News about the frustration of destructive incidents that destroyed not only the school but also the trust of donors.

“We don’t really know why this had happened. However, people [donors] helped us with our education issues and their help should not end up like this.”

Prior to the implementation of the school construction project, KCBNG sought and received permission from all the relevant government authorities – the Karen State government, Karen National Union and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army. Meanwhile as investigations into the fire are carried out, the schoolchildren make do the best they can.

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