For many students here in the United States, it’s time to go back to school. The first day of the school year is always a fresh start full of newness. New notebooks with pages that haven’t been opened; pens and sharpened pencils with erasers unblemished and that new eraser smell. New faces in your classroom, new friends, and new teachers.
For the six government teachers in Pone Tan, back to school has a special layer of newness this year.
The teacher’s residence in Pone Tan was a cramped, decaying bamboo house with a leaking straw roof. Their clothes and bedding grew mildew from the damp environment, dirt fell through the roof, and they didn’t feel safe.
The Pone Tan teachers are very smart, and active and generous with the students. The headmistress has been there for seven years. They spend much of their free-time tutoring students and taking them on field trips. The Myanmar government provides the teachers, but does not provide them with housing in the village. Most government teachers come from far- away cities and aren’t used to village life.
The Headmistress told us “We all come here because of our duty and responsibility, but we love this village and it is our desire to stay longer. But, staying longer is really dependent on the care and respect given by the villagers. If the village is not unified and supportive of the school, teachers are not happy and will try to move to another school.”
The families in Pone Tan really like their teachers, and do their best to help them, often by gathering firewood for cooking and loaning them their motorbikes to travel to town. In 2017, the village decided that they wanted to build their teachers a new home, one fitting of their importance to their village. So, the Village Development Team wrote a grant proposal to Shanta, pulled together their resources, and created a plan to build new housing for their teachers.
After many months of hard-work the new housing is complete!
Now the teacher’s home is warm, safe and dry. It is made of concrete blocks, with a metal roof, and windows. There are six rooms, so each teacher has their own bedroom with a small living room and cooking space. The welcoming space is often filled with the older students receiving extra tutoring so they can pass grade 4 and go onto middle school.
One of the teachers told us “To tell you the truth, we never dreamed to have such a good house because we know the villager’s situation and that they cannot afford much. We were happy and committed to the school before, but now with our new home we are even more committed. We can’t really express how happy and grateful we are.”
Happy back to school from all of us at Shanta!