Providing schooling and vocational training for Burmese refugees 

Ongoing internal conflicts since 1948 have seen hundreds of thousands of Burmese become refugees. Many of those fleeing have crossed the border into Thailand. In 2011 it was estimated that, over time, up to 2 million people moved to Thailand either as war-refugees, transnational migrant workers or simply to escape poverty, violence and instability in Burma/Myanmar.

Burmese refugee writes in schoolbook

About the program

In Mae Hong Son, on the northern part of the Thai-Burma border, the program provides education to children of Burmese refugees. In Ranong, on the southern part of the border, it supports primary school education for children of Burmese migrant workers. In the north, the children cannot attend Thai schools because they are physically confined to a refugee camp. In the south it is mainly because of language differences, fees and lack of official documentation.

As well as getting a general education, children have the opportunity to obtain vocational training to equip them with the skills and knowledge for future job opportunities. Training includes computing, sewing, cooking/bakery and haircutting.

Where the program works in refugee camps, it also provides teacher training and supports the capacity of the camp management to run an autonomous education system. By contrast, in the south a key focus of the program is to ensure that the education provided is as inclusive as possible. Here, the program’s community-based learning centres offer children an education and a bridge into Thailand’s school system. Connections are made with the Thai school system by holding activities jointly with Thai schools. In 2010, for example, 60 students in the program took part in mangrove reforestation activities with local Thai schools in celebration of Universal Children’s Day.

Program details

  • Issues: Education
  • Partner Agency: Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS)
  • Geographic location: Thai-Burma Border — Mae Hong Son (Northern Border) and Ranong (Southern Border)
  • When established: 1979
  • This program is supported by Australian Aid.

Khin and her mother

Khin’s story

Khin, a student in the program, was featured in Caritas Australia’s Project Compassion 2012. Khin’s family fled from Burma in 2001 to escape poverty in their homeland. Khin has participated in the Program Providing Basic Education for Burmese Migrants in Ranong, at the southern end of the Thai-Burma border.

Khin wants to become a teacher, and may get the chance to realise her dream if she graduates from the program into the Thai school system – just as 176 students did in 2010.

Read more about Khin’s story »