Thai-Burma Border Migrant Schools Face Closure as Covid-19 Cases Increase

Increasing COVID-19 cases on the border look likely to close Burmese Migrant schools for another academic year.

By Naw Eh Eh/Karen News

Officially known as Migrant Learning Centers (MLCs), the Burmese migrant schools in the Thai border province of Tak, are making preparation in the hope classes can be held in the academic year 2021-2022.

In 2020-2021, the pandemic kept all migrant schools in the area closed during the academic year.

Migrant education leaders are closely coordinating with relevant departments under Thailand’s Minister of Education and local public health officials to assess the possibility of opening schools this academic year.

Despite their preparations, migrant education leaders are expecting that they will still need to wait for the situation to improve before they can run normal school classes.

Increasing Covid-19 cases in Tak province, especially in Mae Sot district, where most migrant schools are located, have soared in recent days.

The Thoo Mwe Khee migrant school in Phop Phra district, Tak Province, is among migrant schools making preparations to try to reopen. Teachers said they will closely coordinate with the relevant local authorities in order to open their school, but admit they will have to continue to assess the situation.

Brandon Newlin, a senior teacher at Thoo Mwe Khee migrant school said his students are eager to start school. But to do so, they must follow 44 rules set by local Thai authorities.

“On June 25, 2021, a group of public health officials from Phop Phra screened for Covid-19 at our school. After checking 40 students at random, they found no one at the school had Covid-19. We have put hand washing gel and spray into every classroom at the school. Teachers will be assigned to check temperature of teachers and students before they enter the building.” Although such measures have been in place, Brandon said that they will still have to wait to see whether the situation will get improve or worsen before they can reopen their school for this year.

Students at Thoo Mweh Khee are hoping the situation improves so they can continue study in the school classroom.

Saw Wah, a student at Thoo Mwe Khee school said that he doesn’t want any more delays to his study,

“We are now at the school boarding house ready to start studying. If our school can’t open, it will be sad for many students, especially those who come from far away. I hope we can soon start going to our school.”

Officially Thai schools began in mid June 2021, but due to increased cases of Covid-19 students have started online classes.

Thoo Mweh Khee migrant school was established in 2002. There are more than 600 students and 35 teachers at the school for the academic year 2021-2022. Before the Covid-19 outbreak, the school had more than a 1,000 students enrolled. Since the pandemic caused border closures, students from Myanmar side of the border have difficulty crossing to enroll at Thoo Mwe Khee School.

The Migrant Educational Coordination Center (MECC), a department of the Thai Ministry of Education (MoE) which supports migrant education and acts as the intermediary between the MoE and MLCs, in Tak province, estimates there are 66 migrant schools and 9,041 students registered for the 2021-2022 academic year.

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