Classrooms are going to ring hollow. Hundreds of thousands of Burmese students and teachers boycott, Tuesday 1is June, the reopening of schools to protest against the junta and its bloody repression.
Four months after the coup that overthrew the government of Aung San Suu Kyi, many establishments are finally reopening their doors after a year of closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But according to local media, some 150,000 professors who came into resistance against the new military regime were suspended by the junta, nearly a third of the workforce. Some have been arrested and charged under a law that prohibits encouraging mutiny or dereliction of duty in the armed forces.
Burma has been in turmoil since the putsch of February 1, which ended a ten-year democratic parenthesis. This coup sparked protests, clashes between the military and citizen militias, and an upsurge in violence with ethnic factions. The teaching staff, in green and white uniforms, were one of the first to march against the junta. Many professors have also joined the call for a strike by railway workers, doctors, engineers and workers which paralyzes entire sectors of the economy.
Without pay for months, many refuse to return to teach, ulcerated by the bloodshed of security forces who have killed at least 840 civilians, including adolescents and children in recent months.
A fear of indoctrination
Students also participate in large numbers in the boycott of the school. At the end of May, two days before the closing of registrations, 90% of them were not registered in an establishment, according to the Myanmar Now media, many parents fearing that their children will be indoctrinated. Demonstrations have been organized across the country to discourage families.
“Don’t be sad if you don’t send your child to school. Some parents do not have children to register ”, because having fallen under the bullets of the soldiers and the police, wrote opponents of the junta on a banner deployed in the region of Bago, north-east of Yangon.
Many messages have also flourished on the facades of establishments: “We don’t want teachers who serve military slavers”, “We don’t want traitors”, could be read on the wall of a high school in central Burma.
As for universities, a small number reopened in early May. But the rooms remain empty, while many students are at the forefront of the protest movement. “Not a single friend of mine goes to class”, notes a young Burmese registered in English in Mawlamyine (south), the scene of a brutal repression by the security forces in February.
One year without organized learning
“More than 12 million Burmese children and young people have not had access to organized learning for over a year”, deplored at the end of May Unicef, Unesco and the NGO Save The Children in a joint declaration. “Lack of access to safe and quality education threatens to create an entire generation that will not have the opportunity to learn”.
The government of national unity, formed by opponents of the regime who have gone underground, is trying to find a solution. He announced in early May that he was working on setting up a parallel education system, but few concrete announcements have emerged so far.
Faced with this crisis, the junta is blowing hot and cold. On the one hand, the official media minimize, ensuring that the week of enrollment in schools – which took place at the end of May – was very popular and went smoothly. On the other hand, the regime is threatening: “Disrupting the opening of establishments is an act akin to the destruction of the country”, at-il having you.