Interview: Ending the Dictatorship 'Will Give Us a Better Future and Better Lives'
More than 80 percent of Myanmar's teachers support the Civil Disobedience Movement opposing the military junta, says Sai Khaing Myo Tun, deputy minister for education in the country's shadow National Unity Government (NUG).
An education plan will soon be released to prevent students from losing their rights to public education, says Sai Khaing Myo Tun, Deputy Minister of Education of Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow government set up to counter the military regime that seized power Feb. 1. On May 9, RFA Myanmar Service's Khin Khin Ei interviewed Sai Khaing Myo Tun about how Myanmar’s ruling State Administration Council, the junta’s formal name, is suspending teachers involved in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), and what the NUG is planning now for Myanmar’s education sector.
RFA: What are you currently doing as the Deputy Minister for Education of the National Unity Government (NUG)?
Sai Khaing Myo Tun: We are making contact with teachers and with students involved in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) and are having discussions about education plans. Even though this is a revolutionary period, we are looking for ways to do this.
RFA: The State Administration Council is now suspending education staff. Would you comment on this?
Sai Khaing Myo Tun: The teachers themselves are determined not to work under the military junta's education system. At NUG, we set principles that are in line with the will of the teachers. We communicate with them and are trying to offer them moral support.
RFA: Some teachers have now left the CDM and have become non-CDM staff. What do you think about this?
Sai Khaing Myo Tun: The main issue here is the pressure put on them [by the junta] in terms of their security. This pressure includes violence directed not only at them but also at their families, involving very cruel methods. There are a lot of teachers who do not want to do non-CDM work. But there are also teachers who are not morally strong. The learned teachers I have contacted have not given up; they will do it [CDM] until the end of the revolution. And when the government elected by the people comes to power, they will carry out the duties of the people's government.
RFA: How many teachers are currently involved in CDM?
Sai Khaing Myo Tun: We are still counting the teachers in basic education. We have collected the lists [inside Myanmar], but most of them have not reached us yet. There are more than 400,000 teachers in Myanmar, including in the higher education department. You can imagine how many of these are involved in CDM work by looking at the fact that the schools cannot open now. If the classrooms were full of students [as the junta has said], it would not be possible to run these classes with such a small number of the current non-CDM teachers. I think that more than 80 percent of teachers are now involved in CDM. Now the State Administrative Council is not only suspending education officers, but also firing some of them. So the percentage of teachers doing CDM is over 80 percent, as I said.
RFA: We also heard that CDM education staff are facing difficulties and need help. What are you doing to help them?
Sai Khaing Myo Tun: We are making plans. One of our government ministers has said that they are planning to pay them their full salaries as much as possible. Even if we cannot help to that level, we are still doing our best to help.
RFA: The State Administration Council is trying to reopen the schools. Students are boycotting this, but there are also some students who want to study. What can you say about this situation?
Sai Khaing Myo Tun: We are making plans for this, too. The main thing is that students not lose their right to an education. Nor should this be delayed. In addition, we have set a "No one left behind" commitment, so that anyone can get an education. We will officially announce something soon. There will be opportunities for students to learn with teachers. Some students have suggested to us [the NUG] that we open schools for those students who are currently involved in the revolution. We will discuss all these issues and implement an education plan soon.
RFA: What message would you like to send to the students, teachers, parents, and other people who are now fighting the military dictatorship?
Sai Khaing Myo Tun: I want to say that both students and teachers have been resilient so far. The State Administration Council has used various forms of repression to oppress the people, including students and teachers, and many have already lost their lives. So we need to fight with resolve until the end of the revolution. At the same time, we are working to provide an education plan by linking to global education and linking to federal education: a plan for both the young and the grownup people in our country. It is very important that we completely overthrow the military dictatorship. This will give us a better future and better lives, and we will then be able to implement a better [program for] education.
Translated by Thane Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service.