This is Sey Heh, who hopes to be travelling to Musselburgh, Scotland in September 2010. I have just read an article about Say Heh, which makes me feel that we are very honoured to be having such a great teacher visit us. Read for yourself....
'Dr. Cynthia (from Mae Tao Clinic) had established a field clinic, sanitation and irrigation system, and nursery school in Chogali, a Karen willage. She appointed Naw Say Hei as the nursery school teacher.
Tragically, Chogali was sacked by the Burmese Army on February 11, 1997. As Naw Say Hei recalls that fateful day, she clarifies the exact time as if it were yesterday: “February 11, 1997, 2:30 PM”. Nursery school was in session when the soldiers attacked. Naw Say Hei quickly instructed the children to flee into the jungle. Naw Say Hei and the other survivors had only a few belongings and the clothes on their backs as they fled across the border.
Naw Say Hei and her family took refuge at Noh Poe refugee camp where she continued to serve there as the head of the nursery school until 2001. After coming to Mae Sot in 2001, she became Vice-Head Mistress of the CDC School, and Head Mistress for a CDC girls’ boarding house. Today, her two eldest daughters are in University, third daughter starting this year, and youngest daughter is in high school. She adopted her youngest, a boy who was abandoned as a baby and hospitalized when she first started to take care of him. These days, he runs around with great energy, spoilt by attention from his elder sisters, Mother and 80 girls in the boarding house.
As CDC Vice Head Mistress, she maintains order and discipline with the children and supports the teachers. She enjoys her work at CDC, but worries about the future of the children. What will they do when they graduate? How can they get access to further studies? How can they get vocational education and job opportunities?
She also worries about the future of the school. Is it sustainable? Will they always be able to carry on in Thailand? While the Thai civil society and government have been gracious hosts, she feels the insecurity of being a long-term guest.
Back at the boarding house, her worries are simple. Money. Naw Say Hei says that many more children want to come to the boarding houses but space runs out. Funding is not guaranteed from year to year, sometimes not from month to month, and is never enough. Near the border, many villages have no access to high school education and they are still embroiled in conflict. Naw Say Hei wishes they could accommodate all the children who would like to stay in Thailand for education and protection. She is candid in expressing concern that if they cannot be accommodated they may become child soldiers, go to Bangkok to work, be taken advantage or worse yet, trafficked. For many children, CDC may be their only chance for a high school education.
Naw Say Hei is sure to point out the positive developments over time. The Ministry of Education in Thailand has taken initiative to certify migrant schools -- which will help the children to pursue further studies. She sees the tangible positive impact of the partnership between the Burmese Community Based Organizations and the Thai government, a cause for hope.
When asked about the best part of her job, Naw Say Hei lights up with joy. She enjoys her job. Amid all of the challenges, she is proud of the children and dreams that they will use their education to become something more in the future.
What is Naw Say Hei’s wish for the future? “The children will be able to take leadership in the future.” She exclaims, “I am getting old! They can lead now!”