Greetings Hal and Gail!
Deane and just I returned from our travels in time to greet 2015, and I wanted to give you an update on our experience — clearly a high point was our time in Myanmar/Burma.
We began in Yangon with a visit to two EduNet sites, one a monastery school, the second a school set up for youth who — as Su Su, Edunet’s Field Coordinator, said — should be mainstreamed, but because of their disabilities or social situations, were essentially “on the street,” not welcomed by any existing schools — so this school has given them a learning place and the very exciting teacher there is clearly rising to the challenge of engaging a class that includes a six year old and an 18 year old, with another 10 in between.
Partners Asia staff in Myanmar is impressive, and their sophistication in terms of strategy for the work is frankly thrilling. I can see that they have a feel for marrying intellect and theory to pragmatic action. Learning about your partners/grantees and their scope, Partners Asia seems remarkably ambitious — to everyone’s credit. We hope the outcomes approach the potential!
As we visited the schools, a conversation was arranged with the head monk, then with a teacher, and finally with several students. EduNet’s “standards” for participating schools seem so smart — requiring certain commitments before partnering. Our observations in other countries include accountability failures and difficulties in getting buy-in from the grantees — which is one reason EduNet’s approach resonated with us, and looks to increase probabilities of real success. That seemed to be true from the overall commitment required from the monastic school head monk, to EduNet’s approach to teacher training, which seems very effective.
We observed classes in action and saw the impressive water filtering system which EduNet installed, thanks to Partners Asia, which dramatized the centrality of health to educational access and potential.
At the second school — a stand-alone classroom really — we saw a gifted teacher in action and were touched by the eagerness to engage with the whole class even though the age range was staggering, as I mentioned before. These kids bring a range of challenges — from autism to what seemed like low-level retardation, to one child who is tasked with the care of his three year-old brother and so can only attend school himself thanks to the existence of this program.
We learned so much from these contacts. We saw neighborhoods we would never have seen, learned about strategies for educational change in a daunting context, met outstanding young leaders and shared the joys of seeing young kids excited about school, attentive and engaged. We know site visits and field trips don’t necessarily reveal outcomes — but we had an experience that gave us insights into what Myanmar’s enlightened are trying to do, and the odds they face. We are hopeful for their success and we’re optimistic, given the quality of all those involved and the hard-headed idealism that we found guiding their efforts.
Deane and I so appreciated the opportunity to connect with Partners Asia’s work — thank you so much!
All the best,
Dick and Deane