Ed­u­ca­tion and health among Pa-O’s pri­or­i­ties

The Myanmar Times - - International / Local Business - THOMP­SON CHAU t.chau@mm­times.com

PA-O Self-ad­min­is­tered Zone’s (SAZ) will im­prove in­fra­struc­ture, roads, wa­ter sup­ply and ac­cess to elec­tric­ity across the three town­ships in 2018-22, while set­ting up col­leges and train­ing schools for vo­ca­tional and health­care pur­poses.

The sec­ond five-year plan was launched this week by the Pa-O lead­ing body, Myan­mar In­sti­tute for In­te­grated De­vel­op­ment (MIID) and the UK-funded DaNa Fa­cil­ity in Pa-O, south­ern Shan.

The 2012-17 de­vel­op­ment plan was ini­ti­ated shortly af­ter the Pa-O eth­nic group had at­tained their right to self­ad­min­is­tra­tion and was launched in 2012. Build­ing on that scheme, the sec­ond one sets out a strat­egy for Pa-O to im­prove eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties and liveli­hoods for com­mu­ni­ties in Ho­pong, Hsih­seng and Pin­laung town­ships, fo­cus­ing on in­clud­ing young peo­ple, women and marginalised groups in Pa-O’s de­vel­op­ment.

It was pre­pared by the Pa-O lead­ing body, MIID tech­ni­cal spe­cial­ists, lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tors and civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions within the zone. The process was funded through the DaNa Fa­cil­ity, a pro­gramme cre­ated by the UK De­part­ment for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment (DFID).

Ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment seen by The Myan­mar Times, the em­pha­sis for the next five years would be on Tech­ni­cal Vo­ca­tional Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing (TVET), health­care, sup­port­ing small busi­nesses and farm­ers as well as com­mu­nity and agro-forestry. Pri­or­i­ties iden­ti­fied in­clude set­ting up an in­no­va­tion fund to im­prove ac­cess to fi­nance for small and medium-sized en­ter­prises (SMEs), es­tab­lish­ing three col­leges, build­ing ir­ri­ga­tion chan­nels, cre­at­ing nurs­ing and mid­wifery train­ing schools and con­duct­ing fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies on es­tab­lish­ing town­ship TVET cen­tres.

The at­ten­tion at­tached to ed­u­ca­tion is not sur­pris­ing, given that about 70 per­cent of work­ing age peo­ple in the zone are ei­ther un­paid fam­ily work­ers or self-em­ployed and a mere 42pc of the pop­u­la­tion over 25 years have fin­ished pri­mary school. The low ed­u­ca­tion level is mainly due to the dif­fi­culty in ac­cess­ing the fa­cil­i­ties and the cost.

Dr Gail Marzetti, Head of DFID in Myan­mar, said at the launch that this pro­gramme will set in place a strat­egy to give Pa-O peo­ple an op­por­tu­nity to in­crease their in­comes and pros­per­ity. More eco­nomic in­clu­sion will be “the foun­da­tion for con­tin­ued peace and pros­per­ity for all.”

In­clu­sion is an­other high­light. Sim­i­lar to what U Khun San Lwin, chair of the Pa-O lead­ing body, told this pa­per in Jan­uary, Jo­ern Kris­tensen, MIID ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, said the re­vised blue­print will build on the pre­vi­ous scheme while seek­ing to scale up the in­volve­ment of lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives, youth groups, the Pa-O Women Union and oth­ers. Since four-fifths of the pro­pos­als from the first plan have been im­ple­mented, U Khun San Lwin said, the em­pha­sis is there­fore on young peo­ple, women, and marginalised groups, such as peo­ple with disabilities.

“The up­dated five-year Strate­gic De­vel­op­ment Plan for the Pa-O SAZ en­able us to plan and carry out fu­ture de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties and con­tinue build­ing a pros­per­ous com­mu­nity for this and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” U Khun San Lwin com­mented. Agri­cul­ture is by far the most im­por­tant sec­tor for Pa-O’s econ­omy. 80pc of the pop­u­la­tion de­pends on farm­ing to make a liv­ing. Due to good soil and favourable cli­mate, agri­cul­ture holds a very good po­ten­tial but is held back by decades of con­flict and iso­la­tion, which ended only in 2011. Poppy be­came a ma­jor source of in­come for farm­ers in the Pa-O area around the turn of the cen­tury. Be­fore that they mainly grew che­root leaf, corn and beans. Crop sub­sti­tu­tion pro­grammes were ini­ti­ated in 2015, and the United Na­tions Of­fice on Drugs and Crime has been pro­mot­ing the cul­ti­va­tion of cof­fee in Pa-O hills.

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