Migrant learning centers (MLCs) on the Thailand-Myanmar (Burma) border have been integral to the education of displaced Burmese children for years. Many Burmese have difficulty accessing the Thai education system for a number of reasons, including transportation, cost, and language issues. When these issues arise for children and their families, MLCs are able to fill the educational gap.
However, over the past two years, MLCs have found it increasingly difficult to find adequate funding, to the extent that several have had to close. In order to prevent a rise in the out-of-school youth that results from such closings, World Education has worked with Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) under the USAID-funded Project for Local Empowerment (PLE) to increase awareness of the importance of education to parents, and to encourage those parents to help fund their children’s schools.
The work of the PTAs in 15 MLCs in the Mae Sot, Thailand area has resulted in over 98,000 baht in parent contributions to these schools. PLE trainers work with MLC School Directors and PTAs to conduct trainings for parents on the importance of education. Once parents are able to see the benefits of education for their children, they then have the perspective needed to see why contributing to their children’s school is worthwhile. Parents work with the PTA trainers to put together an action plan, which consists of each parent contributing a certain amount of money per day or month to the school. Parents may contribute anywhere from one to thirty baht per day, or a handful of rice. The money and rice then goes to support such needs as student provisions and teacher salaries.
World Education has also worked to ensure School Directors have the processes and training needed to guarantee accountability, preserving and building trust between schools and parents. All directors of schools with cost-sharing received a package that included financial accountability sheets showing the money collected each month and how it was used, with receipts for documentation and the requirement of the signature of both the school director and head of the PTA. Trainings were conducted on how to use the sheets and how to collect proper receipts.
One MLC, New Wave, has raised 22,000 baht over just two months. The School Director, ZawHtet, started the school in 2008 in response to students not having access to the bus to Thai schools. It has more than doubled in size since then and hosts students from a wide background of ethnicities, but it has also encountered a funding shortfall and currently runs without the support of any NGOs or CBOs (community-based organizations). With the help of WE, ZawHtet had started a PTA in the current school year which had already brought parents together to build the school’s roof, cement ground which prevents mud during rainy season, and well for student sanitation.
The new PTA’s cost-sharing plan has been a success. The parents who have a strong background in business donate 1,000 baht (30 USD) per month. Some donate 200 baht or 300 baht. The parents who cannot provide money instead provide rice and vegetables to the teachers. The money has paid for student transportation, repair of the school’s truck, and teacher support. Using WE’s financial accountability package, the school reports the income and expenses of the donated money to the parents through PTA meetings and the annual school meeting. Additionally, the School Director is currently working to address sustainability of the funding because many PTA members move frequently.
ZawHtet remarked on the benefits of parents’ involvement, saying “It is important to include the parents in the school activity through building relationships with the parents and being transparent about the school’s issues so the parents know how they could help the school.” The New Wave School is running successfully with cost sharing by the parents, demonstrating one part of the solution for migrant schools to access sustainable funding for the future.