Books In Our Hands

Our partners ensure that children in Chin State with disabilities keep reading, even when schools are closed.

Schools are starting to re-open throughout Burma, but not in the isolated and mountainous Chin State.

With many teachers unable to return to the region following the Covid-19 lockdown, schools throughout Chin State cannot bring back their students. And without electricity or internet service, online schooling isn’t an option here—only waiting.

Students living with physical disabilities in Burma already struggle to access their right to education in the best of circumstances. And because of a legacy of civil war and underdevelopment, Chin State is home to one of the highest rates of disability in Burma—more than 4 percent of the population.

Before Covid-19 hit, our local partner Disability Development Initiative (DDI) had been focused on inclusive education: ensuring children with physical disabilities could enroll in school in Chin State.

Now DDI is making sure that even with the schools shuttered, these children are not left behind.

Out of this hardship DDI’s idea of a “mini-library” was born: one book for one student, distributed to 50 children with disabilities in five hard-to-reach areas of Chin State. The kids keep the book for one month, and then pass it on to the nearest student in DDI’s network.

“When the schools are closed, what should children with disabilities be doing at home? They can’t work in the field. They can’t go out,” Joshua, the director of DDI, told Partners Asia. “The mini-library books can inspire them to read while staying at home. By putting books in their hands, it is a way to respond resiliently to the uncertainty of formal education due to Covid-19.”

The mini-library project is supported by an independent donor who was introduced to DDI by Partners Asia. Yet in a time of restricted travel, our local staff have proven to be an important resource in getting projects like this one off the ground. Partners Asia Grants Manager BD Sang was asked by DDI to send the books for the mini-library to Chin State from the city of Yangon.

“This is the kind of thing I can do for DDI, so I’m really happy about that,” BD said, adding that the book from DDI might be each child’s first. “I don’t think a lot of these children have books at home that they can enjoy and learn new things from,” she said.

With further funding, Joshua envisions the mini-library growing.

“We have limited money: one book for each student with a disability,” he explained. “We need support to be able to provide more books, such as drawing books, books on planting food, story books, and English vocabulary books with pictures.”

Partners Asia is proud to have built trusting relationships with organizations like DDI, whose work is determined by the needs they see—and answer—within their own communities.

Disclaimer: Partners Asia makes every effort to link grant makers to local groups and their trusted leaders whenever possible. This story reflects the efforts of Lily Tung and friends.