The children want change

Network International School puts students in president’s shoes

Contestants show off their certificates.
Contestants show off their certificates.

IN less than two months, Myanmar will have a new president. The National League for Democracy, the party with the most influence in selecting the new head of state, has been tight-lipped about whom it will nominate. The silence offers citizens the opportunity to ponder what qualities and ambitions the next president should present. One Yangon school has encouraged its students to do just that, in essay form.
Network International School, a British-curriculum school in Yangon’s 7-Mile neighbourhood, held an essay competition in November for primary and secondary school students. The competition asked students to answer the question ‘What would you do if you were the president of Myanmar?’ in 500 words or less.
The winners’ answers showed that at least some members of Myanmar’s youngest generation have bold ideas for change in this country and the rhetorical skill to help them execute those ideas.
Albert Teh, a year-6 Network student who was selected as a winner, wrote: “It is a time to make changes for Myanmar. As Myanmar is a developing country, we need to promote all sectors, such as education, health and the standard of living. If I am president, I will pay respect to human rights and feed people who need food, shelter and money. Moreover, I will give them proper healthcare because our country ranks among the lowest in the world for providing quality healthcare.”
Indeed, the Myanmar government allotted just 3.3 per cent of its budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year to healthcare.
The secondary school winner, year-11 student May Thet Naing, elaborated on the same ideas.
“If I were president of Myanmar, I would review the current public health system and implement an efficient and effective system to provide education, prevention, care and support programmes across the country. This would include township clinics, emergency departments, outpatient [services], general and specialised hotels, home visit programmes, vaccination programmes and post-care follow up programmes,” she wrote in her winning essay.
Both winners also set their sights on the education sector, which received just over 6 per cent of the national budget for this fiscal year.
“Since the standard of education is low in Myanmar, I will invite many foreign educated people to train our citizens. Furthermore, I will open many schools and learning and training centres. Education is the future!” wrote Albert.
Future-president May That Naing agrees.
“To complement poverty alleviation, our people must be educated, qualified and trained in the vocation of their choice to increase employment and productivity, as we need a working nation to compete on the world stage. If I were president of Myanmar, I would assign a special team to review Myanmar’s current education system, including the teaching programmes in place, curricula and methods of delivery, to ensure our programmes are relevant, practical and delivered in a timely and affordable manner,” she wrote.
However, the two potential presidents also differed in their prioritisation of Myanmar’s needs. May Thet Naing wrote at length about reforming the judicial system, while Albert vowed to fix traffic problems.
“I believe the eradication of poverty can be achieved by implementing a sound judicial system….For Myanmar to march forward, critical issues such as bribery and corruption must be abolished immediately to establish trust between the government and its people. To eliminate these practices, I would deploy a strong legal and governance framework, including impartial judicial officials; law and policy review, implementation, monitoring, and enforcement units; independent tribunals…to address public grievances; law enforcement units to enforce and prosecute offenders; special units to perform random inspections and prosecute violators; and public education units to ensure residents of Myanmar are familiar with their rights and responsibilities,” May Thet Naing wrote, channelling Aung San Suu Kyi, whom she said she looks up to.

The winners and the judges.
The winners and the judges.

“A trusted and transparent judicial system encourages entrepreneurs and investors to establish and expand their businesses in Myanmar, creating an open market system where everyone receives an equal opportunity and no one is above the law. This in turn, creates jobs, and eliminates unnecessary hidden costs, resulting in lower costs and increased affordability for consumers,” she concluded.
Albert, on the other hand, is committed to fixing a problem Yangon residents encounter and curse on a daily basis.
“Nowadays, in Myanmar, we have a poor transportation system. Most of our time is spent in traffic jams. Every day, Myanmar people encounter traffic jams, and we cannot concentrate on our work and cannot use our time preciously and properly,” he wrote.
No doubt, millions of Yangon residents would be interested to see how President Albert would solve this immutable inconvenience.
Over 30 students submitted entries to the competition, and two winners were selected—one primary level student and one secondary. They were judged on their originality, style, tone, purpose and technical accuracy by the school’s principal Carl Dent, school founder and director Carol Kyaing and head-of-English Jonny Tamlyn, who also organised the competition.
“With the landmark election in Myanmar, I had the perfect opportunity to engage students with a topic that would capture their imaginations and stir discussion. Overall, it was a successful competition because it engaged young people in the political process and ignited healthy debate about ways Myanmar can move forward as a society,” Mr Tamlyn said in an interview with The Global New Light of Myanmar.
“On a more practical level, it also got students writing outside the classroom, which as an English teacher is always something to be pleased about,” he added.
The competition was held alongside another one in which students were asked to write essays describing ‘a special place’, which encouraged students to exercise their imaginations and descriptive writing skills. Year-5 student Dora (Win Theingyi Maw) and year-8 student Addison (Khaine Zin Zin Thaw) were selected as winners in that contest.
If Myanmar’s future leaders have the same commitment to progress, communication skills and empathy as the students at Network International School, we will all be in good hands.

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