From 1984 until only recently, refugees from Myanmar fled to Thailand in significant numbers due to military offensives between the national government forces and their associated militia groups, against the forces and communities of ethnic minority groups. In 1997, the number of refugees reached over 100,000 after the buffer areas between Thailand and Myanmar were overrun by the government army troops. Even when villages were not being over-run by offensives from military forces, there have been difficulties for communities due to a lack of recognition of the rights of ethnic communities and their education. Life inside Karen State for the most part consisted of coping strategies, either for food security, education or what other essential services the communities required.
After nearly 30 years, around 130,000 refugees live in camps along the Thailand-Myanmar border with governmental policy restrictions on movement and access to external opportunities to education or employment.
Basic Education Support Towards Transition (BEST) Programme
Under the BEST programme, Save the Children with our coalition of NGO partners supports the provision of basic education to nine refugee camps on the Myanmar Border in Mae Hong Son, Tak, Ratchaburi, and Kanchanaburi provinces. We help build schools, repair schools, provide text books for students, train new teachers and provide professional development for teachers. Furthermore, we facilitate dialogue between education stakeholders from government sector and non-government sectors to find sustainable education solutions for refugees. We expect that 37,000 students across the nine refugee camps will have access to basic education by the end of the project cycle. In addition, Save the Children is also working to increase literacy rates across refugee camps, in order to provide them with better life opportunities.
Save the Children is also supporting Thailand’s Ministry of Education to develop a child safeguarding policy in order to strengthen child protection within the education system. This includes raising awareness of child protection issues to educators in the camps so cases of abuse can be more effectively handled and coordinated with law enforcement at the provincial level. By 2014, we plan to pilot a child safeguarding programme in 24 educational service areas across Thailand.