Young Shan monks who have studied abroad, and many more who are studying outside the country, say they are ready for the changes introduced by the Thein Sein government, particularly in the educational field.
Since 1991, under the guidance of Venerable Dr Khammai Dhammasami, the first Shan to win D.Phil at the prestigious Oxford University, more than 80 Shan monks have obtained their academic degrees overseas, according to a recent report:
- 3 Ph.D
- 36 M.A.
- 30 B.A.
- 12 Diplomas
At least 28 more are reported to be studying in Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and England:
- 1 for Ph.D
- 2 for M.Phil
- 10 for M.A.
- 15 for B.A.
The latest monk (now layman) to receive his doctorate, with a research thesis entitled, “The Poetic Dhamma of Zao Amat Long’s Mahasatipatthana Sutta and the Place of Traditional Literature in Shan Theravada Buddhism,” from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), is Jotika Khur-Yearn, a native of Panglong, where the historic 1947 treaty between Burma and the Frontier Areas was signed to become a Union.
Khur-Yearn, who has also been teaching at the SOAS since 2010, received his degree on 31 October.
Another monk, Venerable Nawkhamla Dhammasami, has also successfully defended his Ph.D thesis that he submitted to Peradeniya University, Sri Lanka, according to him.
Most of the graduates have returned to Burma to set up schools for children, who are unable to attend government schools which, though nominally free, are still too expensive for most Shan parents.
According to a research paper by Nang Zawm Aye, MA, only 7,569 children in Kunhing township, a third of the total number of school-age children, went to school during the 2011-12 academic year.
The reasons, she found out, were:
- That the parents are poor, 80% of them living at $ 50 a month income; struggle against hunger is an ever present issue
- There are no schools close to their homes
- Language barrier and accompanying discrimination
- Hostility, grown out of Burma Army abuses, to all government institutions including schools
- Use of education as Burmanization and propaganda tool by the government
(For details, please read Barriers to education in Kunhing township, 9 April 2012, http://www.shanland.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4574:barriers-to-education-in-kunhing-township-shan-state-october-2011&catid=87:human-rights&Itemid=285)