An ordinary day in Aung Myae Oo

Diary for August 11, 2015

Like every morning we wake up at 5:30: Not through our alarm clock, but through the noise of several children who are learning somewhere near our accommodation loudly their schoolwork at heart. Almost shouting, they keep repeating chemical formulas, English vocabulary or mathematical laws – that’s how people in Myanmar do learn!

We use the „freshness of the morning“ and a walk between the countless monasteries of Sagaing Hill towards our favorite Pagoda. On the way, we meet lots of Buddhist monks of all ages who ask on their daily begging tour for food. Their day has already started long before ours.

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At 7 clock, the English lesson for teachers begins. Although their work starts only at 8:30, they came already at 7 clock voluntarily to school, to take advantage of our English lessons. There is probably no other work that is as rewarding as theaching these extremely motivated and ambitious teachers.

After a quick breakfast – we brought from Australia milk powder and muesli – we go back to school classes. This time we teach a class with about 80 children of primary school age a few English sentences in a stuffy and overcrowded classroom. Unfortunately, this lesson is more entertainment than real learning for the children – with such large classes and lack of teaching materials, it is impossible for us to hold proper lessons. Still, it’s fun – and maybe the children are just through these contacts encouraged to learn more English.

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We observe again and again how students sit in front of their classrooms or on the stairs and listen to the lessons, because they have no place indoors. It’s really hot – estimated 37 degrees. We ask ourselves, how ever children can so learn something under these circumstances!

From all classrooms, we hear children shout in chorus. Teaching in Myanmar means: The teacher speaks a something before, and the students repeat (scream!) exactly his words without thinking or questioning what was ever said. They are not encouraged to think for themselves or to critically question what they learn – apparently, not even in Universities.

At first, we have criticized this type of teaching – but if you criticize, you should also have a suggestion for improvement. And we did not. We really have no idea how to teach 80 children better under these circumstances …

It is at 11 clock. A small group of tourists is walking interested in the school grounds. We go up to them and inform them of the school and the life in the monastery. As always, they euphorically take pictures of the cheerful small monks and nuns, running around happily in the school grounds and welcoming tourists with flowers and a big grin. Will the tourists ever know what tragic fate this so happy acting children might have experienced?

We cook pasta (which we brought from Thailand) with tomato sauce for lunch: As Veronica is pregnant, we have to be extra careful with your diet. We have Nilar, a teacher colleague, invited for lunch. Today, she tries for the first time in her live pasta. In Myanmar, people usually eat rice three times a day.

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The heat in our room is just too much. We make a short siesta – work for us under these conditions is impossible. Actually, it is the rainy season, but we have not seen rain for days …

We hold talks with friends of the school to establish our HEFT Foundation. It needs a lot of time to build up the conditions and structures for it. Only for opening an international bank account, we had to visit a total of 8 banks and lead countless phone calls. But we are convinced that this work is definitely worth – only with our foundation, we will be truly able to give long-term support for our school.

In our room, we give young students English lessons. Two little nuns and a young girl are knocking on the door. They give us three fruits and glimpse repeatedly curious in our room. Except for „Hello how are you“, they can not speak any English. But their smile and grin it continuously. It is not their last visit this afternoon. Like every day at around 5pm, „Dong Dong“, our little monk-friend knocks on the door and gives Vero as a wreath of flowers.

At 7pm, after dinner, the English lessons for teachers start again. Most of them have taught all day, and some will have to return to their classes again after English and teach until 11pm (!). But that does not seem to bother them: Motivated and disciplined, they join the English lessons and are overjoyed and thankful that they are able to learn English with us. It is just amazing how committed these teachers are to their work and their school!

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By 9pm, the monk „Ponchi“, the headmaster, visits us. „Have you eaten yet?“ He greets us with a smile. We talk to him about the future plans of the school, our ideas and goals. These meetings with „Ponchi“ are very efficient. He is open and grateful for our proposals and viewpoints. We are confident to start with our Waste Management Project (with the aim to keep the school clean) soon (see article „For the third time in Myanmar.“)

It is 11pm. There sounds a familiar noise from the classroom near our accommodation. A teacher is still teaching his class. Incredible, how 12-year-old children at this time still can learn biology… Later, we go with the same noises that woke us up in the morning to sleep: Children and adolescents, who are screamingly repeating and learning by heart what they learnt during the day in the lessons. We already know that they will be awake the next morning long before us.

So much has happened that day ,so much were we allowed to experience, so many new things were we allowed to see and learn… and yet, it’s just a normal day for us at „our“ school Aung Oo Myae in Myanmar.

More fotos: See in the Menu „Fotos Asien / Myanmar 3“

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