By Khatter Non:
Mon literature and culture classes have been made available to Mon children living in Mae La refugee camp, on the Thailand-Burma border, for the first time this year. The classes began on the first week of March.
Teachers in the camp informed IMNA that 20 students are currently enrolled in the classes, which have been organized by the Mon Literature and Culture Committee. The students are studying Mon literature, Mon history, Mon language and Mon traditional dance. The courses are intended to last until May of this year. The children enrolled in the classes are of varying ages under the age of 15.
According to the organizer of the trainings and resident of Mae Lai, Nai Kaw Mnoke “now we have just 3 teachers, all of the teacher are not given salaries and they are voluntarily. The beginner class has 10 children, first grade has 7 and second grade has 5 students, so we have 23 students. At first when we opened the class some of the children from other ethnic groups joined, like Karen children, but later they left.”
The 3 teachers must teach their classes at two different locations in the camp, as the size of the camp makes walking to one location difficult for many of the children.
According Nai Khin Maung, the father of one of the course’s students, “if we don’t stay proficient in our [Mon] literature, our nation will also be lost forever, and our Mon literature is special. If we can’t read and write in our nation language, how can we be a Mon nation. That why, wherever I move to, I will give support to my children so they can learn our Mon literature, Mon history and Mon language. If we don’t do that our children will forget our culture, so now I am very happy about this Mon class.”
“Now in this era, all of the people are more interested in the Burmese language than their ethnic group’s language, so they are less proficient their native language. Also, the Burmese government has been gradually trying to get rid of ethnic minorities’ native literatures,” he added.
Nai Kaw Mnoke informed IMNA that the Mon population at Mae La refuge camp is comprised of 34 families, 122 individuals in total. 25 of these camp residents are under the age of 15, and 7 residents are 5 years of age or younger.
The Mon Literature and Culture committee organizes classes like the ones described in this article annually, both within Mon State, and in Mon communities outside of Burma. The classes are usually held during the March through May summer season, when schoolchildren in Burma are on summer break from school.