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The Village That Built a Pre-School

“When we were young, we never attended a pre-school, so we didn’t learn. That’s why we wanted a centre here. We want our children to grow-up, attend primary school and have lots of knowledge,” said pre-school teacher Htay Htay Win.

Padar village didn’t have a pre-school, so the community decided to build their own. The women started baking, the men started baby sitting and the whole village started saving money.

Located in Taungup Township in Rakhine State, Padar is a located in a state where just 1.37% of children currently attend pre-school and where literacy levels are the lowest in Myanmar. The Padar community recognized that without a pre-school, their children weren’t learning enough before they started school.

 “We started saving money several years ago, and we thought it would take 3-4 years to build,” said Htay Htay Win. “First we made snacks and started selling them at festivals to make money, and each person contributed 500 kyats (42 cents USD) per month. We formed a committee and when we had a meeting, the men would take care of the children,” said pre-school teacher Htay Htay Win.

It was the women who started this, and we want to continue

In 2015, Plan International Myanmar’s partner organisation, the Yinthway Foundation approached the Padar community and offered financial and technical support to build their ECCD centre. The community contributed the $4,200 USD they had saved and Plan International provided the rest.

“We wanted to set-up our own centre but we didn’t know how to teach the children and we didn’t know the different teaching methods. Yinthway provided this support,” explains Htay Htay Win.

Community members built the pre-school themselves, and in June 2015 it accepted its first students. The centre has now been open for over one year, and fifty students are currently sing, dance and learn about environmental conservation in Padar five days per week.

Parents and students out the front of their new pre-school in Padar village.

The difference a single pre-school can make

“When children are 3 – 5 years old, their brains are alert and can absorb a lot of information, so we have seen a lot of changes in a short period of time. They have changed rapidly. They understand things easily now,” explains Htay Htay Win.

Forty year old Htay Htay Win has been teaching at the pre-school since it opened, and has already noticed how much her students have changed. A routine, a place to play and a chance to learn have made a difference in the children’s behavior both at the pre-school and at home.

“Before the pre-school, the children didn’t do anything, they just played at home. Now they have been coming here for one year, the children are more confident and sing songs in front of their class. They have learned how to deal with each other more politely, they understand teamwork and how to show love and kindness towards each other.”

But it’s not just the children in Padar whose lives are different.

For parents, knowing their children are safe while they work is one of the biggest benefits of the new pre-school. Previously, children were left with their grandparents or taken to the fields with their parents each day.

“The children have become a lot calmer, and things have really improved for parents and children.”

Plan International Myanmar, Australia and Korea are currently supporting the development of children in 15 villages by building and renovating pre-schools, holding parenting education sessions and supporting children to transition into primary school.