From the Farm to the Classroom

KCDS Helps Kayan Children Attend School

Two KCDS high schoolers

“‘Can you eat a book?’, my grandparents asked when my mother begged to go to school. ‘If you work on the farm, your work creates food. What can education give you?’”

The students sitting around the table laughed at their friend’s retelling; everyone had heard similar stories from their parents.

Of the ten school girls gathered, only two had fathers who had attended any primary education, and neither completed the Third Grade. Until recently, education in the Middle Kayan Region of Myanmar was virtually inaccessible. Poverty, warfare, and lack of understanding about the benefits of education meant that most people didn’t go to school. Even today, it’s estimated only around 40% of Kayan children in the region are in school.

“In my village there are around 200 people. Only two have graduated from High School. I want to be the third” – Catherine, 16 years old

A mother of three KCDS kids

As the students dream for their future, Kayan Community Development Service (KCDS) is making their education possible today. Through support from the McClelland Fund, KCDS provides a boarding house and access to high school for 38 children (25 girls and 13 boys) from across Southern Shan State.

Along with their boarding house, KCDS also provides regular financial management trainings for women and youth in Southern Shan State, as well as a few Kayan communities in Thailand.

These courses aim to improve financial understanding and provide job-related training. KCDS hopes that through these trainings, women in the region will begin to have the knowledge and confidence to more actively participate and lead in business.

“It was important for KCDS to support particularly girls’ education… we create opportunity for them to learn and build confidence,”

– Nay Zar, KCDS Founder

“I still have so many things I want to do. I will never stop working to support my people,” says Nay Zar as he thinks of future projects. One plan is to create a vocational training center to target out-of-school youth with emphasis on supporting young women to develop practical skills that can be used for job generation in the community. Currently, no such services exist in the region and out-of-school youth are left to marry, farm, or move to Thailand (often illegally) to search for work.

“I want to return to my community, but I don’t want to be a farmer. I want to contribute to my village in other ways,” shares a Tenth Grade student. The girls sitting with her nod their heads in agreement.

Life in the Middle Kayan Region is still a struggle. Food is not always certain and books cannot be eaten. The future is bright, though, as a new generation of youth and young women led by KCDS are looking forward to a more empowered life – starting with the opportunity to read a book.