Burma (MNN) — Burma's literacy rate is at nearly 90%. Once a strong and expanding education system, the coup of 1988 changed all that.
In a five-year old study, the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated that the junta regime diverted roughly 40%-60% of the national budget to pay for its 450,000-strong military. Meanwhile, health and education combined were allotted less than 1%.
While the literacy rate is still high, the deterioration of the public school systems in Burma created many problems…and many opportunities. The government began to respond to the needs by opening the doors to private schools.
Groups like Worldwide Christian Schools began coming alongside national partners and resourcing them with tools for education. Officially, Christian schools don't exist in Burma. Scott Vanderkooy with WWCS explains: "That doesn't mean the door is completely closed to Christians who want to express their gifts through education. There is an opportunity for education to show the love of Christ while still respecting the government."
So, while the school is not a Christian school, per se, the classes are taught by Christians. It's not overt evangelism. The main goal of the teachers is to educate–and educate well. It's a mindset that is popular with parents.
An initial project in Rangoon launched two years ago has been a huge success, says Vanderkooy. "It's really being used by God in a powerful way to prepare Burmese children for a life of service."
The preschool is open to children ages three to six years old. Word soon got out, and the next thing the staff knew, "There were parents just lining up outside of the school even before enrollment began just to make sure their children could get into that school. So, enrollment filled quickly. That school was constantly involved in expanding its capacity to handle more children. Currently, it has 160 children."
Even better, with the community support, the school is self-sustaining. The growth has put WWCS on a distinctive trajectory. "We want to start again with more preschools that start to pave the way, and provide a path for schools that continually show the love of Jesus Christ to the Burmese people," says Vanderkooy. They're at the beginning stages of planning another school. "This preschool will begin with the vision of every year adding a grade. This will become a full-fledged school system, K through High School."
Although there's still a long way to go yet, with the word of new freedoms coming in Burma, "We think the time is so ripe and we think the opportunity so great. So, we'd like people to stay in touch with us via our Web site. We'd also like them to pray for us as we make decisions about this campaign and the degree of support we'll be able to give to our partners."
Please pray. It's the groundwork for this next school. We'll link you to other ways you can get involved with WWCS, too. Details on the Burma project will be forthcoming.