Karen education officials warn cuts to refugee camp programs are forcing schools to close. Higher education schools in refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border are running out of funding, are struggling to keep open and face pressure to relocate back to Burma.
Officials from the Karen Refugee Committee Education Entity- KRCEE told Karen News that some Kaw Thoo Lei Higher Education Schools in Karen refugee camps are planning to move back inside Burma due to difficulties in keeping schools open.
Naw Mue, manager of the KRCEE’s Higher Education told Karen News that after the annual meeting held on 29th to 31st May, Higher Education Schools under their management will have to move back inside Burma as the support from international donors has decreased and schools are finding it hard to keep operating.
“We have worked together with World Education, Child Dream, and other donors. Child Dream will continue to fund for this year, but they also are no longer interested in supporting the schools long-term – this year will be their last. We don’t know where we will get funding support for next year.”
KRCEE said that since 2014 some Kaw Thoo Lei Higher Education schools have also moved back and resettled in Karen National Union controlled areas such as Doo Tha Htoo, Nyaunglebin, Papun, and Dooplaya District.
Naw Paw Mue said that support from companies, private donors, and individuals from overseas were received for the resettlement of the higher education schools and they hope to continue this.
Teachers from refugee camps, teachers from seven KNU districts, and authorities from refugee camps made up the crowd of about 100 people who attended the KRCEE’s three-day annual meeting and workshop. Presentations and evaluation of education projects and discussions on the future of higher education and joint projects were included in the meeting workshop.
Naw K’La Raka, a teacher at Pu Taw Memorial Junior College in Mae La refugee camp, explained to Karen News that the donor withdrawal of funding has hit hard.
“We used to cope with it [funding shortfall] annually, but, this time the challenge is the final cut of the support. The headmaster and staff have been working hard to keep running the school.”
There are more than 10 Kaw Thoo Lei higher education schools in KNU controlled areas and in the Thai-Burma refugee camps and every year around 1,000 students graduated from these schools. As many of those students are not recognized by the Burma government’s education system, students find work in KNU departments or Karen community-based-organizations, or with NGOs – others try to continue their education by gaining scholarships to study in other countries.