- Operating sixteen schools (nine schools providing basic literacy skills and seven nurseries) with the collaboration of the Shan community along the Thai-Shan border.
- Providing Shan language text books
- Organising trainings and networking meetings for teachers
Shan refugees fleeing from civil war and ongoing human rights abuses are not recognised as “refugees” in Thailand. They are thus being denied safe refuge and assistance from international aid agencies. Most vulnerable in this situation are the children. As their parents are forced to find work as migrant labourers, often illegally, many of the children end up receiving no schooling whatsoever.
Since they are not recognised as “refugees”, they have not been allowed to set up camps and consequently proper schools. Technically all children in Thailand have the right to attend Thai schools. However, there are many difficulties accessing them. Parents doing the “3Ds” job (Dirty, Difficult and Dangerous), are paid so little that sending children to Thai schools is difficult to afford. Parents are often on the move due to the irregularity of work. Also, having illegal status, and confined to the workplace, parents are afraid to leave their work-sites to arrange schooling, fearing arrest. Even if children manage to attend schools, there is a risk to young girls whilst travelling to and from school of being abducted and trafficked. In addition to all these factors, Thai schools teach in Thai only, which Shan children usually do not speak. With children mixing and learning from Thai people, it is possible that Shan language and identity may be lost. The Shan refugee community has strongly expressed wishes to preserve their language and identity for when all Shan people return home.
In response to this, the Shan community along the Thai-Shan border have organised basic literacy classes to meet the needs of displaced children. The Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN) has since set up educational programs to strengthen the capacity of existing informal educational activities. Currently, SWAN is operating sixteen schools (nine schools providing basic literacy skills and seven nurseries) with the collaboration of the Shan community along the Thai-Shan border.
Education is perceived as a key need by the Shan refugee/migrant communities along the Thai-Shan border. SWAN's work in addressing this need has greatly facilitated the cooperation of local communities in all of SWAN's programs. For example, local communities are far more willing to join the various trainings or meetings organised by SWAN and share information on their problems and needs. Without this local cooperation, SWAN would not be able to develop effective strategies and programs to address community needs or advocate on their behalf.