In the midst of long-lasting political turmoil, we are working to improve school libraries, promote reading, build schools, and support the settlement of returnees.
Background of Activities
While the economy is developing through democratization following the collapse of the military government in 2011, which had ruled the country for more than half a century, the country has many challenges to meet, such as achieving multiethnic coexistence, improving education, and so on. In 2016, under the agreement of the governments of Thailand and Myanmar, the movement toward the return of refugees began. However, due to a coup d’etat by the military in February 2021, Myanmar reverted to the former situation in which citizens’ lives are threatened by the loss of democracy and economic stagnation.
What We Do
Myanmar rapidly became democratic after the civilian government was established in March 2011. We worked on promoting reading, improving schools, and also developing resettlement support projects for returnees.
In Myanmar, aside from public schools, there are completely cost-free schools called monastic schools. The curriculum and school system conform to those of the public schools that are under the control of the Ministry of Education, and many children from poor households attend them. In addition, public school education has been made free, allowing more children to attend school. However, both monastic and public schools need to be renovated due to deterioration of school buildings and a shortage of classrooms. We build school buildings, set up corner libraries, distribute books, and conduct teacher training.
In Myanmar, where memorization-focused education has been the norm, large-scale educational reforms are currently underway and the transition to child-centered education is moving forward. In order for children to acquire 21st century skills such as critical thinking, which this educational reform aims to achieve through the promotion of reading, we also set up school libraries and provide training on how to use children’s books.
Myanmar has the national diet library, university libraries, public libraries, and village libraries which are operated independently by local communities. Though public libraries are meant to provide child activity services, librarians have never been trained in child activity services and the number of children’s books is very limited. We improve children’s corners, carry out mobile library services using motorcycles, and give librarian workshops.
According to Myanmar’s Ministry of Information, more than 8,000 books, including magazines and comics, were published in 2011, out of which only 82 were meant for children. Though some books have manga and frontispieces, there are only a limited number of high-quality picture books. To provide children with high-quality picture books, we have established the Children Book Publication Committee together with local writers, illustrators, and editors to publish picture books and paper theaters (KAMISHIBAI). Published picture books will be distributed to public libraries and schools. We also work on human resource development by providing training in picture book publishing by experts.
Since democratization started in Myanmar, refugees who had fled to the Thai border have gradually started to return to their country. Myanmar’s government provides support for reconstruction and resettlement centering on the development of basic infrastructure such as housing to returnees and local residents in and around host areas. Nevertheless, it is difficult for the returnees to obtain the necessary information to start a new life, and at the same time the local residents in host areas also have difficulty getting information about the status of support from outside and returnees. We have built a CRC and share information and knowledge through the CRC to solve community issues.
Activities So Far
SVA develops projects by making use of its experience in reading promotion and library activities that it has accumulated in other countries since 2014.