A boarding school in Mai Ja Yang that houses internally displaced Kachin children is struggling with a recent large increase in students. Over a few weeks in June the school tripled its population with the arrival of more than 300 students.
Almost all of the children at the school come from Kachin areas of North Western Shan state where fighting continues between government forces and troops loyal to the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). Most the children were sent to Mai Ja Yang following the closure of dozens of schools in KIO territory in Shan State, their parents have stayed behind to tend to livestock and their fields.
From last October 2011 when the school was established until May, there were about 100 children living at the school's Ung Lung hostel. The school's total population now stands at 553 students however. Most of the students are between the ages of 6 and 18-years old.
May Li Awng, the coordinator of a local group NGO Wunpawng Ninghtoi (WPN) said that because there is a serious lack of space, teachers and learning resources the student's education has suffered.
To cope with the lack of space school administrators recently divided the students into three buildings, two of which were previously abandoned workers dormitories that had fallen into disrepair.
“We don’t have enough volunteers to give them all the love and nurturing they require while they are separated from their families” May Li Awng said.
According to Ah Hkawn, who is the head of a clinic run by WPN, many of the children are suffering from fevers, runny noses and stomach pains.
“They eat mostly instant food and rarely get fresh vegetables. If they could get more support, it would be really good,” said Ah Hkawn.
Following the outbreak of fighting last year and the subsequent closure of dozens of KIO affiliated schools in Shan state many families tried to send their children to nearby government run schools.
The government run schools have however been frequently refusing to accept students who previously attended KIO affiliated schools, a sharp contrast with the ceasefire period when students could switch back and forth with relative ease.