| 22 February 2024, Thursday |

Myanmar teachers, students defy junta order to reopen schools

Only a quarter of Myanmar’s more than 12 million students have enrolled for the new school year amid a protest boycott against military rule and following a series of bombings, an official of a teachers’ group said.

The academic year in Myanmar began on Tuesday (Jun 1) for the first time since both the February 1 coup and the relaxation of curbs imposed last year against the spread of COVID-19.

Although Myanmar’s junta opened public schools this week in an effort to get the country back on track, classrooms remain largely empty as teachers and students defy the junta’s calls for full classrooms in a show of resistance.

Only a few dozen students have shown up in some schools that had 3,000 to 5,000 enrollment rates in previous school years. And there are also several schools that remain completely closed with zero attendance.

Some parents took to social media to say that they chose not to enroll their children to show sympathy for those whose children have been killed in the unrest and out of respect for the striking teachers.

Meanwhile, a number of schools across the country have been set on fire or bombed with homemade grenades by unknown attackers.

The regime has claimed that the attacks were carried out by civilian resistance fighters who have taken up arms to defend civilians against the junta.

More than 800 people have been killed and more than 5,500 others arrested by military forces since the junta seized power on February 1, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) advocacy group.

Students and teachers have been instrumental in organizing the protests, demanding the release of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the restoration of civilian rule.

Hundreds of youths including high school students and dozens of children are among those killed by the junta’s forces. At least 47 teachers have also been detained, while arrest warrants have been issued for some 150 other teachers on charges of incitement.

The teachers’ federation said more than 125,000 teachers, from a total of more than 430,000, had been suspended for joining a civil disobedience movement.

Myanmar’s education system was already one of the poorest in the region under Suu Kyi, with less than 2 percent of the country’s GDP being spent on education, according to World Bank figures.