TMKS – the Migrant School That Can’t Say No – Students Do Well, Despite Over Crowding

Thoo Mwe Khee School, a popular migrant school on the Thai-Burma border, is having difficulties coping with almost 1,000 student’s packed classrooms and an overcrowded boarding house.

Thoo Mwe Khee School, in Phop Phra district in Tak province is officially known as Thoo Mwe Khee migrant learning center, students refer to it as TMKS.

The school started with four teachers and three classes of a total 79 students, but it has now grown into a full high school with a post-high school program with around a thousand students.

Saw Bway Doh, the school headmaster says it is hard to turn away students who turn up at Thoo Mwe Khee School looking for education.

“We would like to limit the number of students we admit to the school. But it’s hard to reject students who want to come here to study. If we reject their admission, it will be difficult for them, as they will have to find another school. We take into consideration the students’ opportunities, enthusiasm and their wishes to study at our school in admitting them.”

Naw Paw Wah Wah, a second year student at Thoo Mwe Khee’s post-high school program said she can cope with the difficulties at the school if she can get a quality education. Naw Paw Wah Wah’s is one of the students the headmaster finds it difficult to reject her admission to TMKS.

Speaking to Karen News, Naw Paw Wah Wah said.

“Studying at Thoo Mwe Khee, has made us confident enough to stand on stages or to give [public] speeches. We learn English here. There are some problems with classroom [availability]… but we are happy to learn outdoors if we have to. I want to take care of orphaned children after I finish school. I want to build an orphanage [center] to let children live and provide them with education – this is my dream.” Paw Wah Wah said.

The school headmaster said that even though the school operated under difficult conditions, it still manages to work thanks to its staff, friends and parents.

“It’s true we have more students than the number we can admit and we have problems needing more infrastructure and classrooms,” Saw Bway Doh said, before adding, “even though the dormitories are full and we have difficulty providing enough food rations and shelter, none of our students are starving. This is a result of the combined efforts of our teachers, foreign friends and parents of the students.”

Thoo Mwe Khee School provides four level of education – primary, middle, secondary, and post-secondary school. Media, sport, music, mechanics, dance, agriculture and animal husbandry are also included as vocational training. English, Thai, Burmese, and Karen languages are also taught at the school.

Most of the students studying at Thoo Mwe Khee School come from displaced communities inside Karen State, Burma to pursue their education. The border is fifteen minutes drive from the school and is close to migrant areas along the border. An issue for many students is they are undocumented and lack legal papers to be in Thailand.

Saw Ner Du, a third year student of Thoo Mwe Khee School’s post-high school program is from Kawkareik township in Karen state. He said that there are challenges both back at home and here but he believe his school will do well one day.

“Studying here, there are many different challenges. There are also difficulties with families [back home]. We are from Burma and …traveling here is difficult, as we don’t have legal documents. Currently, there are too many students. We don’t have enough classrooms.” Saw Ner Du said. “In the future, I want our school to become a school similar to international schools. I want to see enough classrooms. I want Thoo Mwe Khoo School to become like schools in other countries. I believe this will happen.”

School officials are proud to see some of their successful students getting further education opportunities abroad, with some working for non-government organization and others with Karen civil society organizations.

The headmaster Saw Bway Doh shares the same belief that TMKS will do well in the future.

“Thoo Mwe Khee School will be recognized one day. It is our goal to get international recognition. Our chances are getting better and better. We can see our graduates from our high school and BLA program benefitting our society. Some are working as teachers, some work for Karen civil society organizations, others at NGOs and, for family businesses. If we consider this, we can see graduates from Thoo Mwe Khee are more than capable of benefitting their communities.”

Saw Ta Eh, a graduate from Thoo Mwe Khee post-high school program who is now working for a local Karen media organization said that the school was a good foundation for him to pursue his career.

“I have gained a wide range of education and knowledge from the school. The school equipped me well with basic skills that I can use them in my future. It opens up my mind and help me see my future path in the society.”

Although TMKS is facing difficulties, they are not alone; donor organizations including the Hope Project, Spinning Top, and I-Care Foundation support towards the running costs of Thoo Mwe Khee School.

More information about Thoo Mwe Khee School can be found here.

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