Back to School Bombing

SALIN – All 500 villages around Salin, a township in Magway Region, central Myanmar, elected NLD candidates in the 2020 General Election. The small farmers who lived in the area lost all hope for a better life after the coup. Open protests stopped after a brutal crackdown early March, which left an engineering student dead and ten people severely injured. The anger was then expressed in the form of spray-painted messages on official buildings such as ‘The Revolution Must Win’, ‘This must be the last generation to live under dictatorship’ and ‘We’ll never forget and we’ll never forgive’.

As June 1st means back to the classroom for Burmese students between 5 and 16 yo, education became the next battlefield. Despite death threats by soldiers, most teachers in Salin township were involved in the CDM and only 4% of students were enrolled by their parents in the days ahead of the new school year. On May 26th, the message ‘No slave military education’ was found on the wall of a public school in Taw Seint. In the morning, the police came to question people on the street and the village chief appointed by the military. They left without finding out who had written it. Later, sixty policemen and soldiers entered Taw Seint, chased away militants and shot at those who fled. That night, a 40-year-old woman was killed by a gunshot to the head, two people were wounded and seven others were arrested.

As the vast majority of Burma’s 15 million schoolchildren and students have not attended school since the first wave of Covid-19 in June 2020, any hope of a return to fragile normalcy was buried by political violence and a ferocious third wave propelled by the Delta variant, which spread to 90% of the country within weeks of being detected in June 2021 in Chin State, on the porous border with India. Barely a month after they were forced to reopen, all universities and schools closed their doors again.

By the end of 2020, 1.1 million children were working in Burma, 60% of whom were engaged in risky activities, despite a law prohibiting the hiring of under-15s and hazardous work by minors. Today, inflation on basic commodities, the loss of millions of jobs due to the political and health crisis, and the premature death of thousands of parents due to lack of care and violence threaten to deny a new generation their right to an education and a future.