Meet our new Myanmar Office Country Manager, Lalfak Mawia. Mawia is from Chin State, and as such studied at school in a second language. He explains some of the difficulties of studying in Myanmar if you are from a minority ethnicity, and his own memories of growing up in the Chin State.

Coming from Chin State, one of the most underdeveloped in Myanmar, it is wonderful to have this opportunity to serve Myanmar students as Country Manager. With the support of different scholarship foundations, I gained an MA in Education as well as an MBA, which gave me personal experience of the beauty and impact of scholarships and individuals who support educational opportunities for those who are marginalized and suffering different challenges in their life.

My pursuit of education began when I was five years old. I would begin the day by waking up early, walking across a village and forest, attending school without having a lunch box and only reaching back home at the sunset. In search of lunch, a group of us would go to a nearby forest to pick fruits during lunch break. Many times we had to return to our classrooms with empty stomachs. This is a familiar story to many children from mountainous areas of Myanmar; this is the case not only in Chin State but also in Rakhine, Kayin, Shan, Kayah, Kachin, and so on.

As Chin, it is not easy to learn the Burmese language. For those who live in villages, we must go to town to study secondary education where we get mocked on our Burmese pronunciation and usage of language by Burmese speaking students and even by some teachers. This is the case for many other ethnic minorities. For many of us, English becomes our third language that we must learn in order to get ready for international higher education and a brighter future.

My father was a missionary, and it was through moving from place to place with him that I came to realize how diverse we are in Myanmar. The phrase “Unity in diversity” is more relevant than ever in Myanmar but still far out of reach. The difficulties that arise from having a country with so many different ethnicities and languages seem to be a big hindrance to building a peaceful Myanmar. Even Chin State, the most peaceful state of Myanmar in terms of armed conflicts has become a scene of violence between the Arakan Army, and the Tatmadaw since 2018. The hard-won education of many young students is disrupted in times of conflict. Even before armed conflicts reached the area, the rate of passing matriculation* in Chin State has been always the lowest in Myanmar due to poverty and language barriers.

Living in such an ethnically diverse country has always been challenging. Equality and quality education are basic foundations which we are still seeking. Internationally educating the people of Myanmar will be the most unfailing investment for the development of the country, as the standards of education in-country still fall far below international standards.