Published: 03rd February 2021
The military wants us to be uneducated, but we are not fools this time: A teacher in Myanmar on her fears after coup
The military coup in Myanamar has put many in fear of going back to being ruled by a dictatorship
On Monday morning, civilians of Myanmar heard what sounded like a death blow. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USPD) had just announced on their TV channel that they have taken over their country, their commander would now be in charge, that civil leader Aung San Suu Kyi had been detained along with all other politicians of the ruling party (NLD) and that the country would now be in a state of emergency for one year.
For those who came in late
In November last year, Suu Kyi's NLD had their third landslide victory in the general elections. The USPD has not been happy about this and has alleged election fraud. In 1990, after decades of military dictatorship, the NLD won in the first multi-party election since 1960, and in a similar style, Suu Kyi was robbed of her win by the military. She then survived 15 years of imprisonment. In 2015, she was back, won the elections — once again, a landslide victory. The country has been a beacon of democracy for the last five years with people bearing testament to better living conditions.
This coup has put many in fear of going back to being ruled by a dictatorship.
A young mother of three, and a former teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells us about her fears.
Before the 1980s, Myanmar was ruled by the military and the standard of living of our people was very low. The military didn't want our young children to be educated. They would not allow English to be taught in schools. The curriculum was very selective. They didn't want the world to know about us. We had no connection with the outside world. In fact, when I came as a student to Chennai several years back, everyone thought I was from Nagaland. No one knew anything about Myanmar.
Before the first election in 1990, the USPD said that if they lose, they will give up all authority. But when they lost, they weren't happy. Until they get their authority, they will do whatever it takes. During the last five years, after the NLD won, mother (Suu Kyi) took over the leadership. Now our country has started becoming known. Our lifestyle was slowly getting better. But now, they have again detained all our leaders and they're claiming to have another election in 2022. But no one believes them anymore because even in one year, they can destroy our country. Only people who are related to them will become rich. The civilians will suffer a lot.
During the 80s, we were not even allowed to learn English. They wanted us to be fools, wanted us to be uneducated. The moment they said the military detained all the leaders of the ruling government NLD, there was fear in the hearts of all the people. We were immediately reminded of the past when they were in control and we cannot bear to go through that again.
The only difference is we are not fools this time. The media has access and our country and its many problems are known. So we don't expect them to shoot us down foolishly because the world is watching. But if they start ruling, the same fate awaits us.
The military rule will also greatly affect the jobs of young people. It has just been one day since this happened and already one Japanese company that was trying to launch its business here was forced to stop. There are several young people who have jobs because of the international companies set up here, but now they may be forced to shut down, leaving people jobless.
And if there is no education, they won't be able to land those jobs. In the past, the medical students who completed their course in Myanmar, when they went to America, the certificates were not valid there. The military did not take steps to ensure our education and well being.
Only the rich can afford private schools. Almost all the middle class families send their kids to government schools. My husband and I learnt English from India, so we managed to teach our kids, not because we love the language so much, but because it is important in this global era. But my kids' friends can't speak English even after they complete tenth grade.
For 50 years, the military has already spoilt our country. Only in the last 5 years, mother tried to gradually uplift our country. To spoil one thing is easy, but to rebuild is very hard. Still, there were many changes under our mother. Before the military rule, there were many people from neighbouring countries that came to Myanmar for education, but since their rule, it has been reversed. Now, even the textbooks have changed. Lessons are more lively. But, I remember how there was one teacher who tried to make her classes more interactive and fun and the USPD tried to stop her.
During the pandemic, only private schools could continue their lessons online. Education for all government schools had stopped completely anyway. But since the internet services have been disrupted since the coup, I am not sure if even private school lessons could continue. Some military troops were seen cutting off all media broadcasting wires with knives. Now it has been repaired, but we don't know when it'll happen again. We have been asked to stay at home for 72 hours. So we are letting the world know as much as we can on social media that they may cut off all our communication lines.
Now the schools are closed anyway because of COVID, but we don't know if the military will choose to reopen it next academic year (June). We also heard that the COVID vaccination has been stopped. Yesterday, one COVID-patient died as she was not able to contact anyone because the phone services were down.
If we don't have social media, we don't know how they will treat us.