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, organisations are following the donors, and part of the population either follows organisations or are finding refuge in Thai jobs, third 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 in the camps. 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. They make sure that new students are recruited. They write the monthly reports and they write proposals when the roof needs 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.
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.
An important 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.