The Karen Literature and Culture Committees from various states and regions convened in Hpa-an, Kayin (Karen) State this week to discuss the future implementation of Karen language education under a federal Union.
“The main aim is to discuss in advance how we will carry out ethnic [language] education when the federal union emerges,” said said Nan Khin Aye Oo, coordinator of Kaw Lah Foundation, which organized the October 8-10 workshop.
“We don’t know when the federal Union will be established, but we are discussing in advance to be prepared. We are also preparing [representatives] so that they are able to discuss Karen education in federal political dialogues,” she added, referring to national and state-level negotiations to determine the level of local autonomy under future federal power-sharing arrangement.
Forty delegates from the state-level Karen Literature and Culture committees of Bago, Tanintharyi and Yangon regions and Kayin and Mon states attended the summit, as well as representatives from Karen political parties and Mon and Pa-O literature and culture groups.
The participants reviewed the current state of ethnic literature teaching in government schools and planned future educational projects. They also discussed updates to the ongoing peace process.
Members of the Karen Literature and Culture Committees said that the standards of ethnic literature education had accelerated in recent years. Ethnic literature is currently being taught in government schools outside of usual school hours in Yangon, Ayeyarwaddy, Bago, and Tanintharyi regions, but some challenges, including with recruiting and paying teachers and ensuring the classes actually get taught, remain.
“The Karen Literature and Culture Committee had faced difficulties to get the right to officially teach Karen literature after school hours in our region. [The government] said they will compensate the teachers, but it has been half a year but they haven’t been paid yet,” said Saw Maung Toke from the Yangon Region committee, noting that lack of interest from parents in supporting ethnic language literature presented another major obstacle.
The committees, Karen political parties and civil society organisations have previously held workshops in Yangon as well as in Hpa-an. Another conference is scheduled for November.