“Students need to improve literacy skills in Burmese and English while retaining their Ethnic Language because when they graduate to Myanmar Education Department Schools classes are taught in Burmese and English. However, the community does not want to lose their First Language.”

Cultural identity is maintained through local languages and oral histories of communities and their environment. Primary schools in Myanmar are typically taught by non-qualified teachers who conduct lessons in the local ethnic language. When students move to Middle School where the curriculum is governed by the Myanmar Education Department, lessons are delivered in Burmese and English.

Saffron aid has initiated a program called Keeping Languages Alive Through Creative Writing.

This program is conducted in remote regional monastic schools in Myanmar. Teaching is generally by rote learning with little or no creative or independent learning. Schools are under-resourced without libraries or reading books for students.

To begin to bridge the gap between regional dialects and the modern requirement of English literacy and the national language of Burmese, this program will be introducing the concept of creative writing to monastic school students starting in the Tanintharyi Region of Myanmar. The program will be replicated in other regions and states as funds become available.

The program seeks to select stories written by students to be published as picture books, using Burmese and English text. These volumes will be illustrated by local artists, reflect local culture and promote an engagement in Burmese and English literacy when translated from their ethnic language. Books will be printed in Myanmar and distributed to schools within the relevant ethnic language region as sets of readers for the students.  Children whose stories have been selected for publication will be given a special edition of their book as a keepsake.

The current aim is to develop 20 such stories and print 500 copies of each. The books will then be supplied to 20 regional schools in boxed class sets of 25 books per class. The potential in the short-term is to build the reading confidence of over 2000 primary school children who are beginning their journey in the development of Burmese and English literacy skills.

Saffron Aid is also looking at schools in Australia to participate in this project by having their students write stories that can be illustrated by older students within the school. These stories will be translated into Burmese as well as several ethnic languages and will be printed in Myanmar and distributed to Myanmar schools to help improve cultural understanding and language skills in all three languages.