Five times displaced: a mother’s struggle to provide education for her children in Myanmar
14 February 2023
“I cannot go back home, and if I could, I do not have a house anymore.”
For Mima*, home is her village in Eastern Myanmar. Due to the violence that followed the February 2021 military coup, she hasn’t seen it in over a year and a half. She was forced to flee, together with her children, and has been displaced five times since.
“Before the coup, everything was normal”.
Prior to February 2021, Mima, a widow and mother of three, worked three jobs to make ends meet. Through difficulties, she was able to support her family and was full of hope for her children’s future. The coup and the conflicts that followed crushed her hope.
In May, Mima’s village was attacked for the first time, military junta forces clashing with local rebels. “I hoped it was temporary,” she remembers. That’s why, at first, she did not leave. Truth be told, she couldn’t – she did not have the resources, such as transport and disposable income, to relocate.
“We could not run or escape in time (…) my family was stuck in the conflict.”
At the village, Mima watched her house being burnt down and her father get killed. Her son, aged 15, was arrested and had to endure a year in prison. That is the one event that affected her and her family the most.
The memory of that time and the painful awareness of her son’s lingering trauma still shakes her to this day. “Whenever I think of it, I am in tears, and I cannot control my emotions,” she confesses.
After her son was released, the family started to move from place to place in search for safety. Mima wanted to protect her children at all costs: “As a mother I had to stay strong, as my children are looking at me and depending on me.”
She worried constantly about primary needs, like food and shelter, but she was mostly concerned about her children’s education – the one possibility for a better future: “what if they lost their hopes and future?”
After moving five times, Mima arrived in a new camp where she now feels happier and more at peace. One of the main reasons is that, here, her children can go to school. Displacement and its aftermath showed Mima the importance of education. “I still want to give my children a beautiful life,” she explains, adding “I cannot give them properties or heritage, except education.”
Being able to go to school and bond with their peers also helped Mima’s children to deal with the trauma experienced in the last two years. “Seeing my son being happy at school makes me pleased,” she says. Given the opportunities for her children in the camp, she has no doubt: “I do not want to run anymore.”
Of course, she still dreams of being able to go back home and prays for peace. However, her children’s future is her priority and as long as that is secured, she will continue to have hope for the future.
Unfortunately, like Mima’s children, many in Myanmar cannot access basic learning. Throughout the country, education is disrupted, and schools are attacked or closed. Children, forced to flee from one place to another, have difficulty going to school regularly.
JRS calls for displaced children inside and outside Myanmar to have access to humanitarian assistance including safe, inclusive, uninterrupted, and quality education programs. Investments in school materials, infrastructure, and teachers are critical.
After two years of violence and destruction, Mima, her children, and all the people of Myanmar deserve peace. We must not forget them.
*Names have been changed for security purposes.