March 2010, Labutta -
Nay Lin Tun is a 14-year old student from Oak Kan village. When his school closes for the summer holidays, he is able to help more with his father’s fishing, which is his family’s livelihood.
Before the school holidays, he had to work diligently every day after lunch on his homework, knowing that within a few hours, he would need to help his father fish. In Nay Lin Tun’s family, food seems to be a bigger priority than his education, but he disagrees.
“Even though I am unable to spend as much time on my studies, being able to attend school in 2009-10 academic year has been a golden opportunity for me,” Tun remarked, referring to the fact he is one of only 20 students in his village who is still attending school.
After cyclone Nargis, half of the students of Oak Kan village, including Tun, had to stop attending school as their parents were not able to further support their education.
Initially, Tun’s father, U Khin Win was similarly unable to support his son’s education. He received a livelihood grant of Kyat 120,000 (US $120) provided by UNDP and used it to purchase a fishing boat and a net. Both Tun and his elder sister, Khin San Oo, were compelled to do their part and join the family business, as their mother and two younger brothers were killed during cyclone Nargis. Working to provide for their family left no time for school for Nay Lin Tun and his sister.
Although he was proud to contribute to his family’s livelihood, the dream of an education remained on Nay Lin Tun’s mind.
“My son constantly asked me to send him back to school and I felt really sorry for him. So I started saving Kyat 200 (about 20 US cents) per day, with the aim to allow Nay Lin Tun to pursue his studies. Normally, I earn Kyat 2,000 (US$ 2) as a fisherman, thanks to the grant I received from UNDP,” U Khin Win explained. Using that money, Tun was able to enroll in school the following year as a grade five student.
Tun’s sister added that she continued to work with her father while Tun attended school and that she was able to save Kyat 100 (10 US cents) every week in her Self Reliance Group (SRG).
Khin intends to borrow money from her SRG group to start a small business, allowing her to provide more support to her family, in particular, her brother’s education in the coming years.
Paying for his education is not the only challenge for the student. Tun must commute 45 minutes by a small rowing boat in order to reach the nearest school, which is situated in the village of Ah Mat Ka Lay.
“Basically, I understand that our life will never advance without education. So I go to school everyday no matter what. It would be great if there was a school in our village,” Tun said.
“And I would prefer more teachers to come to our post-primary school, as there are currently only five teachers for 248 students. This is why I have decided to become a teacher, so I can serve in a small village like ours,” Tun explained.