The Impact of COVID on Education
Schools were closed in 2020 due to spreading of COVID19. After seizing power, the military junta tried to open schools in 2021 but was not successful because most of the teachers refused to collaborate with them and students didn’t enroll for classes. This year too, though the military government opened the schools, many students refused to attend and teachers refused to collaborate. At this moment, home schooling and online classes are available for those who can afford it and have facilities, and for those who are living in safe zones. However, for those who have been displaced, opportunities for education are limited. In most camps, people set up self-supporting schools for children with the help of volunteer teachers. However, our parishioners and those of another parish do not have the resources.
Therefore, with the limited funds received from our province and from the donors of the congregation of Religious Missionaries of St. Dominic, we decided to work together as a Dominican Family, and formed an Educational Support Team, composed of Father Marko Thoe Reh, OP, Sister Francesca Polo, OP and Brother Simon Htoo, OP and put our effort into this educational sector. In the forest we set up a temporary high school, St. Catherine of Siena, for the students who are taking shelter in that area and with the help of 17 teachers, we are now running this school.
The friars and sisters are not only supervising, they are also teaching some subjects to the high school students. 187 students are attending the school we are running; 50 of them are boarding in the tents set up near the school. We are paying the teachers for helping us teach in our school and two workers.
Besides sponsoring these 187 students, we also give minimal assistance to 293 elementary and primary students who are studying in their parents’ self-supporting primary and elementary schools in the forest and also supporting the teachers of these students.
Pastoral and Psycho-spiritual Assistance Team
As most of the displaced people are Catholic, pastoral care is also urgently needed. The 2,000 Catholics who are directly under our Dominican care are also displaced at this moment. In the past year, Father Moses Dereh, OP, Father John Sui, OP and Father Philip Soreh, OP had all been giving some pastoral care to our parishioners by visiting them in their camps, hearing their confessions, and regularly celebrating Mass for them.
To respond to spiritual and psychological needs of the Catholics who are displaced, a Psycho-spiritual Assistance Team has been formed. This team is composed of Father John Maung Sui, OP, Sister Judith Mujar, OP and Sister Lucia Baw Myar, OP. Some catechists and leaders of the people also assist.
This team is responsible for meeting the spiritual needs of the people who are taking shelter in the forest. Every now and then, the team tours the camps, celebrates the Eucharistic for them, accompanies them in struggles, listens to their stories, and offers them words of encouragement.
Cooperating with the catechists, this team also organizes catechism classes for the children in order to give faith formation to them.
Therefore, the team members are also offering a kind of psychotherapy to those who may have been traumatized because of wars, of losing homes, of losing their loved ones or because of other serious crisis. The displaced people are gathered and grouped according to their age and gender, and after some input, the participants are encouraged to share their stories and worries among their groups.
The purpose of giving Psychological First Aid to the displaced people is to prevent from developing traumatic disorders.