Against the trend

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The last few years the situation in Nu Po and other camps, has changed a lot. Donors have redirected their focus on working inside Burma, organisation are following thye donors, and part of the population either follow organisations or are finding refuge in Thai jobs, thirds countries or somewhere in Burma.

Not everybody is ready to leave and some people really have no place to go even with rations going down and other services disappearing. Education is still maintained but at a bare minimum. The community tries hard to keep schools in the camp, but they have not much to offer.

ESC has so far been able to function at the same level as before, this is in part because of the fact that it has always been a very basic idea, bring those who can teach together with those who want to learn. The main asset of the program are the teachers, the main tool is the daily conversation between teachers and students.

What helped was the fact that each student only had to show up for one lesson, for one hour. Nobody falls asleep after one hour. What helped was that each student could follow their own pace. What helped was that the teachers at the program have always been students themselves.

The volunteers from Europe, the USA, Australia, South America, Canada learned about different cultures, the local teachers learned from experience and sometimes from those who came from abroad.

Due to changes in camp composition, ESC has adapted in ways that has not hit the main objective. With a strong focus on the teachers, ESC has shifted some responsibilities and now it is a program that is 100% run by local teachers with support from their students.

Naw Cherry, Aung Kyaw Oo and Saw Peacock each takes some responsibility for running the program. All there make sure that new students are recruited. They write the monthly reports and they write proposals when the roof need repair. They find people to fix the roof, materials and make sure the school is a dry place for the next rainy season. In the meantime they provide the classes.

 

Funding

ESC has never been a free school, although for those who can not afford the fee, a waiver is in place. Joining ESC is for three month periods and each student pays 20 baht a month for one hour of English each working day. The first few years extra money was found by asking visitors of Nu Po and friends in Mae Sot or even abroad.

Then the program found a donor in the family of one of the founders, Hugh Cory. Two times they covered all the cost for one school year, and both times ESC managed to make this money last a lot longer, in total all the cost for 4 years were covered.

For the last few years ESC runs on a small budget that is provided by friends of the school, some who once attended the program and are now living abroad, in America and also in Burma. ESC is very grateful to those friends.

Volunteer Teachers

An imported part of funding are the volunteer teachers, who receive a small stipend for expenses in the camp, for food a cup of tea. The local teachers also donate a lot, their time, their skills and although they do receive a stipend, it cannot be called a proper salary due to the fact that they don’t have enough teaching hours.

The last few years it has been very difficult to convince applicants that teaching in Nu Po is a wonderful experience, both for the volunteer as for the students. Last year our friend Marco taught for almost 8 months and he has already been back as he misses his students, his geckos and the rest of Nu Po.

A new attempt is now underway and hopefully somebody will see that teaching in Nu Po is the same as teaching in Burma, you only don’t need to travel the whole country, everybody can be found at ESC.

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A New Session Start

At ESC we do not follow a year long curriculum, we do not have a school where after 2 or 4 years you get a certificate that you have followed a course. Instead we teach several classes, from beginners to advanced with the aim that each student makes progress in speaking English, writing and most of all gain confidence. In order to do so we have 3 months periods and after such a period we have new entrance tests, and new students. Students who feel they can go from Starter B to Intermediate, can do so and many students have gone from starter A to Upper Intermediate or even Advanced.

While you can see who is inside a house by looking at the shoes in front, during the rainy season you have to look at the umbrellas.

In January 2017 we kind of had a re-start and at the end of July, Early August the third session of this year started. This also meant some changes in the working group. Oo San Win, who was our office manager for 6 months and who helped set up student registration and together with Htun Hla made some improvements to the compound, decided to spend more time at home. Therefore teacher Moe Moe offered to combine the two positions of office manager and teacher.

Aung Kyaw is one of the students in the Upper Intermediate class and he also teaches at the PAB high school. Since the third session he takes on one of the starter classes and helps in the office as well. Also new is teacher Cherry. After finishing KEDC she studied at EIP and worked for AMI at the Mental Health department. Now she has taken on the Intermediate class, and is also teaching at CCBC.

Peacock has decided to continue to teach at ESC and we have a new Thai teacher, Khin Kru Dina. She is teaching two classes, one with adults and one full of young children.

 

10 Years

7-7-7 was the date that was used as starting point for ESC, while in reality the first class was later. Considering ESC was first an idea, then a work in progress and finally a school.

So 7-7-17 was our ten year anniversary, and we didn’t celebrate. Mostly because we forgot. And this is because in 10 years time all those who were there at the start have moved on, while new faces have appeared.

Never the less, 10 years ESC is an achievement and only possible by the hard work of many. Thanks very much to all of you.

English Speaking Course Nu Po

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Visit Briana (and Marco didn’t know)

A community is like a living organism, it grows, it shrinks, it loves, it breaths, it fights, it suffers, it thrives, it defies borders.

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Thanks to Marco, Goodbye to Briana

In 2009, teacher Briana came for 3 months and stayed 6, leaving with pain in her heart. She returned to Nu Po some months later to provide a teacher training with ZOA and the Camp Education Committee for all high school teachers in the camp. And the she moved on to other places.

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Briana enjoys the entertainment while Marco takes a picture.

At the end of 2016, ESC was asking around for a new teacher, as it wanted to make a fresh start. Briana’s husband Marco, who all those years ago spend one week in Nu Po visiting his wife and introducing Spanish as en elected subject, reacted immediately and ESC jumped on the opportunity. In a few weeks Marco will begin his third session at ESC, and he has energised everybody at the school.

In between two jobs, Briana wanted to visit her husband a month ago but when she was asked to provide a teacher in Yangon in collaboration with Mote Oo. That training finished a week ago and she would go and visit ESC later this month, but decided to surprise Marco en last week she went to ESC for a short visit.

Apart from a few faces, she didn’t meet any person from 8 years ago, showing how much has changed in the camps, how many people have resettled, have gone back, have found places outside the camps. And more changes will come.

Also at ESC things change all the time. This month we had to say goodbye to Oo San Win, who helped start the school in the first 6 months. Teacher Wah Wah htoo Say has left for Yangon, where she hopes to find a job in education, at least she was able to join Brian’s teacher training.

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Teacher ‘Extraordinaire’ Marco.

Thai

Our Thai-Karen student Wanpen offered Thai classes two months ago, but she has already gone back to Thailand where she follows a medic training. Another student temporarily took over Thai class until the new teacher, who was discovered by Marco, could start. This teacher is well known and soon the numbers in Thai class swelled to 15.

Our student Aung Kyaw has offered to teach beginner classes and Moe Moe is stepping up to function as school manager.

Our teacher Peacock has been offered a position at PDJC and soon he reluctantly will leave us, but Marco has already spotted an excellent replacement, whose name we cannot reveal yet.

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Teacher Peacock gets a present from a student.

Part of the success at ESC comes from the fact that education is slowly leaving the camps, and support for teachers has been cut. Luckily teachers like Briana and Marco are willing to support the local teachers who show a dedication many of us can take an example from.

Goodbye and thanks

The students decided to finish the second term with a small party with singing and dancing, food and drinks. Without the aid of teachers they organised a goodbye to Briana and a thank you to Marco who is now on a two week holiday with his wife.

Another visit

A friend of ESC is in Nu Po for some research and students at ESC have offered to help where they can, in exchange for extra classes.

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Thai and Art Classes

Music is a great way to use in teaching so in order to introduce a video on poverty and the idea about Basic Income Guarantee, this teacher decided to use his singing and guitar playing skills. He doesn’t have any. And the guitar has only got four strings.

The video can be seen online and is called “Poverty isn’t a lack of character, it’s a lack of cash”. During and after the video the students and teacher discussed many things around poverty and ways to solve it. While the video and the vocabulary added challenges to the lessons, that class was very attentive and contributed widely to the lessons.

This Saturday students were invited to come to ESC to paint the school. Not the wall, but to create water colours of the compound. While everyday this week had heavy rains, it was hoped that like other days the rains would wait for the afternoon, and they did.

About 10 students showed up and together with teachers and staff, and two students from the high school, there were around 15 artists who all looked at the school from different vantage points.

Of course snacks were provided, this time the samosa’s and ee kya kway from San Lin, a former ESC students who provides these snacks every day in several tea shops.

The result of the day’s efforts can be seen below, and their English skills are as good as their creative ones.

This week also saw the return of the prodigal son, and from Monday onwards Teacher Marco will front the class again. He joined the Thai class on Friday and was a patient painter on Saturday.

After the art class we seeded the raised bed for teacher Marco, so pretty soon he is totally self sufficient.

In the meantime we hear that Saya Ma Wah Wah Htoo Say is doing well in Yangon and her children have joined school over there.

Last Week of May

The rainy season hasn’t started yet, the rains have been visiting Nu Po relentlessly. Heavy showers resulting in streams that resemble the wild rivers of the Himalayas, in miniature form. For some people the rains came too early as their roofs had not been fixed yet, at ESC we have little problems with the large roof and the office. As workers are busy else where we have to live with cups and saucers in places where dripping occurs.

After out avocado planting there were 4 totally dry days and this was not good for the plants. No sooner that we started watering, the rains returned and now we hope the trees have not suffered too much.

The second half of May saw the opening of a special Thai class. Student Wanpen was elevated to teacher and as she cannot speak Burmese, the class was open to those students who spoke well enough English to follow Wanpen. Ten students started the course with Ko Ga, Ko Khai.

In order to prepare the compound for the rains, yesterday a group of volunteers came and helped clean the compound, fix the path to the school, build a raised bed so Teacher Marco can grow his own food and after a coffee and snack watched the movie “Dirt” about soil and how important that is.

With dirt under their nails they went home.

Avocado Trees and Two Roofs

 

Two Shed Jackson was a famous artists in the 70’s in England, now we have “Two Roof” Dominique.

This Saturday a group of ESC students planted around 20 Avocado trees around the compound while some other students, with the main work done by Dominique created two small roofs in front of the doors of the office and the teacher room.