Pbamak School is only 9 miles from the Burmese border and at the end of the highway. There is a check stop to get into this very isolated area which becomes completely shut off from the outside world during the rainy season. To get to Pbamuk you drive up narrow, steep roads and ford streams but the scenery is fabulous and the welcome is worth the effort.
Pbamak School has 126 students (all from the Burmese Karen Tribe) and is one of the Royal Princesses’ projects but, like many of these projects, although the building is lovely there are no regular funds in place for administration.
The school is the lifeline to the extremely poor community that surrounds it and takes on many roles in the community including informal clinic and food supplier. Their main donor has recently pulled out and the present stock of food (they serve lunch to the school children), medicine and school supplies will only last until May, 2011.
The children in the area are being taught to weave baskets to develop a skill and, even though the baskets are quite rudimentary, the children are very proud of their finished products. This school is again run by the army. The idea behind these army/government schools is to develop community trust so the large refugee population does not threaten security in the area. Unfortunately, because the school’s student body is 100% Burmese, the Ministry of Education does not provide any financial support and the community is too poor to pay any fees. The army personnel that run the schools are poorly paid but end up spending much of their monthly salaries on school necessities. This is truly a humanitarian gesture on their part.
One teacher said it best “We give with our hearts not with our hands.”
Kind Gestures has promised that food staples, basic meds including malaria treatment and school supplies will be brought to the school before the middle of April before the rains begin in early May.