by Kaitie Warren, Co-Chair University of British Columbia LWB Committee
Librarians Without Borders has recently opened a brand new local committee, based out of the iSchool at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Founding member and current Co-Chair, Kaitie Warren, has recently returned from a service trip to the Thai-Burma border. Read all about her adventures supporting the Curriculum Project of Burma. The Curriculum Project works to design curricula and provide teacher training for schools serving Burmese exiles and refugees on the Thailand border.
Kaitie with an old student Thit Koh, who graduated last March and completed a four-month medic practicum in December.
After my first semester-and-a-quarter of Library and Information Science at the University of British Columbia, I began working on a resource guide for teachers on the border of Burma and Thailand. I first visited two years ago with a small Non-Government Organization, Project Umbrella Burma. ‘My students’ are at Kaw Tha Blay Learning Centre, where Karen students learn for two years after finishing high school. This past December I got to visit and set up a little project that will support teaching at similar schools.
Students have finished high school in Thailand, mostly in one of the nine refugee camps on Burma’s eastern border, because at home there are either no schools or they can’t afford to go. A lot of them left home long before high-school too; accessing education is one of many reasons that hundreds of thousands of people are forced to leave Burma. It has been this way for a very long time, and despite recent changes in government structure, this reality has not changed.
On the border, there is a fierce commitment to education. Students write and say things like ‘I need education to help my people’, ‘Without education I can’t do anything’, ‘Education is the weapon to fight for the future’. It’s very powerful to hear these thoughts and the stories behind them, and see how difficult it is for students to get the learning they’re looking for.
My project right now is to make it a bit easier for teachers to find materials for class. That’s difficult for many reasons. This is a very rural area, with government checkpoints blocking the road for refugees and migrants. There isn’t much money to buy books with; it’s also difficult to get appropriate books. At the few schools with Internet, people are quite new at using it, and finding extra resources online is not a part of most people’s experience. Even with excellent Internet skills, resources that are relevant to the students and at a good language level are very hard to come by.
Curriculum Project is the NGO I’m working with. They make coursebooks with content for this area, and support adult education on the border in other ways. This resource guide will go with those coursebooks, and add materials that teachers can use to build lessons, audio to play in class, readings and research activities for students. The topics are a range of English levels and a host of social studies like Systems of Democracy, History of Burma from a Multi-Ethnic Perspective, and Environment Issues.
This resource guide is a way to make it easier for teachers and students to find the information that they want. It also presents useful resources side by side with the coursebooks that they’re already using – it will be clear how to put them together for better learning.
Second year students at Kaw Tha Blay Learning Centre intrigued by the insides of a computer.
Karen students practicing their traditional Done Dance under the misty mountains.
Class on the badminton court on a chilly morning.