Fifteen year old Aye Sander lives in the Buddhist nunnery, Chanthar Aung Nunnery School, in the poor outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar.  An avid reader, she is receiving a quality education.  Unlike girls her age attending government schools which teach rote memorization, Aye Sander is learning critical thinking – how to identify, assess, and solve problems – an immeasurable life skill.

350 girls attend Chanthar Aung Nunnery School and forty orphans, like Aye Sander, live there.  With seven classrooms and eleven teachers, the school is overcrowded.  A new building stands nearby, half finished, without funding to complete the roof and flooring.  All their food is cooked over wood fires. Only one of the buildings has electricity.

The school depends primarily on donations.  Novices walk through the village twice a month asking for rice and donations.  It is always a struggle to make ends meet and is made more frustrating by the fact that monks are allowed to ask for food on a daily basis.

The head nun, a lovely and gracious woman, cares deeply for all the girls in her care.  When asked what her greatest challenge is, she said it is to feed the 40 girls who live there.

Aye Sander and her two younger sisters have lived at Chanthar Aung Nunnery School since she was three years old.  Unfortunately, her story is not unusual.  Born in the ethnic Shan state, Aye Sander’s parents divorced when their small business failed.  Unable to support the 3 girls on her own, her mother sent them away to Yangon to live and receive an education. This is the hidden cost of Aye Sander’s education.

However, Aye Sander is fortunate to be receiving an education.  Only half of Burmese girls complete primary school, and the majority of those girls do not learn critical thinking.

Education is critical to escape chronic poverty, which is wide spread in Myanmar. For some, poverty is transitory. However, the more vulnerable remain poor for long periods – even all their lives – passing on their poverty to their children.

The United Nations General Assembly convened last month in New York to create Sustainable Development Goals that will “pick up where the Millennium Development Goals left off, fill in the gaps and take us to the next level”.  Whether the goals target poverty reduction, gender equality, health, the environment, or other sustainable issues facing today’s world, education is the common denominator to the goal’s success.  The world is starting to acknowledge the power of education – especially the impact created by educated women and girls.  Yet, there is often a hidden price for that education, as experienced by Aye Sander.

Help girls attain their right to education. To take immediate action:

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Educational Empowerment was created by women for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

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