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Call for a Church school comeback in Myanmar

YANGON (UCAN): Saying that in the heyday of the Christian school system during the 1950s, Burma had the best educated children in Asia, Charles Cardinal Maung Bo, from Yangon, intends to make an appeal to the government to allow Churches to contribute once again to the revitalisation of the nation.

He explained that the long neglect of the education system, which began with the nationalisation of schools under Ne Win when he seized power in a military coup in 1965, has seen it deteriorate from one of the best to one of the worst in Asia.

“The Church is ready to contribute once again,” the 68-year-old cardinal said on November 9.

“We are going to officially make a request to the government to return our schools, despite the fact the National League for Democracy-led government hasn’t spoken on the subject so far,” he explained, adding that Church personnel would also try to animate politicians to raise the issue in parliament.

His appeal comes at a time when the Union of Myanmar is emerging from decades of dictatorship as Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won the 2015 elections and took office in April.

Critics have long blamed the former military dictatorship for ignoring Myanmar’s school system for decades.

Cardinal Bo also affirmed his intention to help in the education sector at a celebration marking the 500th anniversary of Catholicism in Myanmar held at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Yangon in November 2014.

He said Church-run schools need to become functional once again and that the government should return all the mission schools, which had been taken away at gunpoint.

Cardinal Bo addressed the subject when he visited Stonyhurst College, a Jesuit school in the United Kingdom, in May.

“Education is vital for any country,” he said. “It is particularly vital for my country of Myanmar as we begin our journey into a more democratic system, a more open society, and as we confront the difficult challenges of nation-building, peace-making, celebrating diversity and tackling poverty.”

Shila Nan Taung, a Baptist and upper house member of the parliament from the ruling National League for Democracy, also supports a Christian education renaissance.

“We would be pleased if the government returned nationalised schools, because we need to upgrade the system of education,” Nan Taung, an ethnic Kachin and a retired professor, commented.

She praised the role of Church-run schools and said that she received her all-round education from a school run by sisters.

“I become a tutor and professor with an English major thanks to the benefit of the Church-run school,” she said.

Decades of military rule destroyed the education system in Myanmar. Budgets were always short and there is reason to believe this was deliberate, because the regime did not want to have to deal with an educated population.

In Kachin State, deliberate campaigns were aimed at primary school children to get them hooked on drugs, as one social worker explained, to zombieise our people so they cannot resist.

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