Kho Kay village, with 600 residents, is three hours by dirt road and boat from the Thai border town of Mai Sariang. Many villagers fleeing from the civil war have settled in Kho Kay because of improved security offered by the flanking Salween River and formidable jungle-covered mountain peaks. The last time the village was attacked was October 2011.
Currently 81 students across 7 grades are taught Karen, Thai, Burmese, English, Maths, Science, Geography and History by 12 teachers. For higher-level education children have to travel to Mae La Oon and Mae Ra Ma Luang refugee camps on Thai soil. All the teachers at Kho Kay have attended the bi-annual teacher training organised by the Karen Education Department.
The number of students in the school varies during the year, as many of them work with their parents during key parts of the farming season to ensure that the family has enough food to eat. The difficulty a family faces in finding enough food has meant that many children leave the village after completing year 4 and move to nearby Et Tu Ta refugee camp. The number of students has decreased from 150 in 2007 which reflects this uncertainty of food supply and of life in general on the Burmese border. Often, a family’s inability to provide food for their child will prevent them from attending school.
The staff in our Burmese schools are paid 750 Thai Baht (approximately £15) per month. Many teachers in other schools are not paid or are only paid when funds allow. This means that in many schools the children are only educated when the teacher is not farming or trying to raise an income another way.
The KED is responsible for working with the school’s committee to run and develop the school. It makes visits to the school, collects data and delivers school materials and teacher salaries.
Saw Lah Say, the head of the KED, said…
“When we reviewed and evaluated the school we were very happy with the school management even if many of the parents are illiterate. Some parents are farmers, traders/sellers and community workers and they all live in mountain areas from different villages. They participated well in running school activities and they encourage and support their children and teachers with whatever they can do”.
During a recent visit the school committee requested that Epiphany consider funding a new roof for the school and food for teachers. Our current funding includes all wages, teaching materials, medicines and transportation costs. The roof, at a £200 one-off payment for 10 years of service makes easy economic sense compared to the current one-year lifespan of a leaf construct. Due to the schools remote and mountainous location, the food is expensive and difficult to source. Even though it is a sizable increase on our funding at £100 extra a month (50% of the current wage bill), we feel it is right that this forms part of our renewed commitment to the school.