Sunday 1st August 2021

Thursday, 10th January

Days for Girls – Pathein Chapter! 🙂

There is beginning to be a little movement between classes as it becomes evident that verbal assessments showed pupils to be slightly less able than they actually are, whether through shyness or stress or wanting to be in the same class as friends, in one case. We have found too that the many late joiners, many of whom have straggled in each day, are generally on the poorer end of the spectrum. But somehow the classes have all evened out.

For our breaks and lunchtimes, many of the students disappear off but most stay and continue to work. They are very dedicated and anxious to learn. Our UK students would learn much from how they value education. We have a long lunch between 11:30 and 2pm which allows students to go home if they wish. Our seminarians hang around and have lunch on the top floor – and rest, I think. They have a really long, hard day and while they love coming to class and to evening class, I think they need to rest when they can.

In the afternoon, I went to lovely Anne (Khine Kyi Khant)’s Gakken classroom. She is in charge of this private maths/critical thinking class where the children get to focus on how to learn rather than just learning by rote. The classroom is bright, welcoming and well organised. Here Assumpta and Kyu Kyu Hmwe and Joan and I met with Anne and a friend who knows the prison and its workings well. The four of them will go to the prison to take the Days for Girls bags there. We decided we would also pack hygiene bags for the women, 70 without sanitary towels and around 80 with, as they will not received the bags. We also bought noodles for everyone and sachets of coffee which the women use as currency if they want to buy extra food, etc. 🙁 We went through the training for Days for Girls but Anne thought that, though the information about menstruation was helpful, she did not feel that it was appropriate to deliver the other information about how babies are made or self defense. She said that other organisations deliver this information. So we will take this slowly. I will speak to both DfG and my trustees about the best way to proceed.

The most problematic aspect is that Anne needs to present yet more paperwork to the prison including copies of all of their identity cards. This is frustrating because we started this process in November. Anne found the planning visit to finalise the delivery of the bags stressful and difficult. Since I wrote this she has had to go to the bus station to collect papers brought from the appropriate authorities at the head of the prison service in Yangon or Naypyidaw. We are still awaiting final permission which is irritating to say the least. We may end up doing a kind of dummy run. We were not going to be able to go into the prison to take photos anyway so maybe we can at least take a bag and photograph the outside of the prison, which would be the best we can do under the circumstances. We will just have to take this as best we can and be led, albeit unwillingly, by the authorities. As long as the bags go to the right people and give the women dignity and something that they can call their own, we will have fulfilled our plans. There are five children under the age of five in the prison and two pregnant women but we cannot find out any more information than this. If we find the ages of the children we will take toys dedicated to their actual needs.

Thursday evening brought the third of our clubs – Maths Club this evening – and so successful was it that we had to beg the students to leave after nearly an hour beyond class finishing time! Kate had organised two challenging number grid problems and a word problem. Critical thinking is a huge growth area here where education has been degraded to the extend that young people have been expected just to read, memorise and regurgitate and this has been called learning.

Another successful day. Good night!

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