Thang Thang's Education

The arduous journey deep into the Chin Hills is certainly not for the faint-hearted. After a twenty hour bus journey from Yangon, Myanmar's majestic central hub, the frontier city of Kalay is a launching pad for the eight hour motorbike ride across rugged, unforgiving mountainous terrain to the town of Falam, not too far from the Indian border. Once a British colonial outpost, and later the site of fierce local resistance to Japanese invaders, the resilient Chin people have retained a proud culture with astonishing ethno-linguistic diversity between the various hill settlements, despite the ravages of colonialism.

Beaw spent 2016 teaching in Falam at the Chin Institute of Social Science – a small institution designed to support the development of young aspiring Chin students. One student, Thang Thang, the school’s best academic achiever for 2016 no-less, revealed to Beaw a determination to seek an education abroad. Elliot was fortunate enough to spend a couple of weeks in Falam last year visiting, and got to know this particular student, among many other inspiring young Chin people.

When Thang Thang asked for help to get into Chiang Mai University we couldn’t refuse. While many aspects of life in Myanmar have improved rapidly in recent years, unlike neighboring Thailand the country’s tertiary education system remains substandard. Chiang Mai presented an affordable option for a quality liberal arts education.

In June we arranged for him to venture here to sit the entrance exam and take the interview for the International Bachelor of Social Sciences program, which he passed with flying colours. Thang Thang is now back in Chiang Mai to begin his studies.

Thang Thang remains resilient and effervescent despite a challenging past. His father passed away when he was seven years old. His mother, a nurse at the local hospital, raised him on her own. She is delighted and fully supportive of her son pursuing this path and has even provided him with the basic financial help that she can.

Thang Thang is an intelligent, inquisitive and caring young man. He is eager to learn beyond his community, and equally as eager to serve back in his community. We are confident this education will give him the tools to bring fresh ideas to a place rich in life, but desperately in need of development. Chin State is among the poorest parts of Myanmar, with persisting issues including rampant child labour, poor maternal health and lack of access to higher education.

Asking for financial assistance doesn’t come naturally to us, but in this instance we are really left with no choice as we have exhausted all other options. We will be providing Thang Thang with accommodation and food at our house in Chiang Mai. However, for this academic year he has been unable to secure a scholarship for his tuition fees due to his inability to previously access a formal education. We are confident that for subsequent years in his degree he can secure a scholarship, but right now we are asking for contributions towards the 80,000 baht needed for his first year tuition.

We hope through the support of our network of friends around the world, and anyone else inspired to play a small part in helping Thang Thang help his community, we can set him on his journey.

That rugged passage to Falam reveals a splendid isolation, but that isolation comes with its own unique set of challenges that only its indigenous people can conquer.
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Elliot Lodge 
North Sydney, NSW

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