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New Hopes of The School on The Lake 湖上の学校に希望が芽吹く

Updated: Jul 27

It is around half-past seven in the morning. A slender, five-seated canoe glides smoothly on the lake. There, the houses on both sides, weaving workshops, restaurants and even hotels all perch above the water; they are built on bamboo stilts plugged into the lake of 3 meters depth.

The canoes with school children on board began to appear one by one on the lake shortly before 8 o’clock. On one side, a mother is rowing the canoe by herself with her young child sitting in front of her. On the other side, a group of school children in green and white national uniforms are seated in one line and rowing together.

"Soon, more and more canoes appear"

Soon, more and more canoes appear. They gather around the school and wait for their turn to disembark, rocked by the waves. The front of the school is quickly filled with those canoes. The children on the front canoe jump on the floating island made of water weed and algae and begin running toward the school building with their school bags swinging on their shoulders. Their laughing voice fills the classrooms and echoes out of the window and then ripples through the lake still in the morning haze.  朝7時半過ぎ。セッレーと呼ばれる5人掛けの細い舟が、湖の水面を滑るように進んでいく。左右の家屋をはじめ、織物工房やレストラン、そしてホテルにまで、すべて水深3メートルほどの湖に突き刺した竹の柱の上に建てられている。

 登校する子どもたちを乗せた舟は、8時前ごろから姿を見せ始めた。幼い息子をちょこんと前に座らせて一人で漕ぐ母親もいれば、白と緑の制服を着た子どもたちが数人、一列に座って漕いでいたりする。その数は次第に増えていき、学校の前は波に揺られながら順番を待つ舟であっという間にいっぱいになった。先頭の舟の子どもたちから順に水草や藻でできた浮き島に上っては、カバンを肩からかけ直して転がるように校舎へと駆け出す。弾けるような笑い声が教室の窓からあふれ出し、朝もやの残る湖の上をわたっていく。


The bond of people reinforced through school building construction

建設通じて高まった団結力

Inn Paw Kone Ywa Thit School is located on the Inle Lake surrounded by the mountains over 1,500 meters high. It is a school built on the water. It was opened as an independent school 65 years ago, and has been the place of education for Intha people: local people who reside around the Inle Lake. Today 238 children from kindergarten to 8th-grade study there.

The village’s turning point came around in 2011. At that time, the old school building was no longer able to accommodate the number of children in the village, and the village decided to construct a new building next to the old one with support given by an NGO, Saetanar. As committed to Saetanar, all the villagers proactively participated in this project. The money for building the foundation on the lake was collected from the village households. When the actual construction work started, men went to the site and worked together every day and women prepared food to support them. The villagers had no experience handling the construction of such a large building that is several times as large as a regular house, at the beginning, it was difficult for them even to set up a pillar. Also, they had to learn how to ask for invoices to the contractors, sign a contract and supervise construction work based on the contract. But the villagers tackled the project together in a painstaking manner, and as a result, “Our bond became stronger and we gained confidence in ourselves,” says one of the villagers looking back.

Thanks to their efforts, the new building was finally completed after 5 months. “Before we constructed the new building, the school was not big enough, so it could only accommodate children up to 4th grade.” “From 5th grade, children had to commute by boat to the village located at the entrance of the lake, but now everyone can stay here and continue studying up to 8th grade,” say the parents smiling.

 ここインポーコンユワティッ学校は、1,500メートル級の山々に囲まれたインレー湖上に建つ水上家屋ならぬ水上学校だ。65年前に自主学校として開校して以来、「湖の民」と呼ばれるインダー族の人々の学び舎であり続けてきた。現在は、幼稚園から8年生まで水上村に暮らす子どもたち238人が通う。

 村に転機が訪れたのは、2011年のことだった。手狭になっていた校舎の隣に、セダナーの支援で新校舎を建てることになったのだ。セダナーとの約束通り、村は総出でこの事業に積極的に参加した。湖に足場を建てる費用は、村の家々が出し合って負担。建設が始まると、男たちは休まず現場に通い、女たちは食事を作ってサポートした。通常の家屋の数倍はある建物は初めてで、はじめは柱1本建てるのもままならず、施工業者から見積もりを取ったり、契約を結んで作業を管理したりするのも見よう見まねだったが、労を惜しまず、村一丸となって取り組んだことで、「これまで以上に団結力が高まり、自信がついた」と村の男性が振り返る。

 奮闘の甲斐あって、5カ月後に新校舎が完成。「以前は教室が足りなかったため、ここでは4年生までしか勉強できなかった」「5年生以上は船に乗って湖の入り口にある村まで通わないといけなかったが、今は8年生までここで学べる」と、親たちが口々に喜ぶ。


Development project brings independence and growth to the village

開発事業で村の自立と発展を

When the school construction work was finished, a new development project that brought positive changes to the village was started. Principal U Wai Yan Soe says happily pointing to the light bulbs that illuminate the classrooms, “So bright! We installed these ceiling lights using the profit we got from the development project.”

What he calls “the development project” is a profit-making project that enables the villagers to maintain their school in a

sustainable manner. In most of the cases, the villages choose a micro-finance project. Saetanar makes it a policy to support construction projects together with development projects. This is because Saetanar believes that if the villagers manage the school themselves, they can gain independence and promote growth.

In this Inn Paw Kone Ywa Thit Village, the development committee members elected by the villagers run the micro-finance project since 2012. They provide loans to the people at a low-interest rate for half a year. Those who want to borrow money can get loans from the village based on the trust, and repay loans with interest. “Before we borrowed money from rich people, and we felt abject and miserable, but now we can get loans from the village without such feelings.” This project is very popular among the villagers and there has been no delay in repayment. The profit gained was not only used for installing the ceiling lights but also constructing a fence around the schoolyard, as well as putting a roof to the corridor connected to the toilet building. In recent periods, more than 135 people are constantly getting loans.

 校舎の完成後に始まった開発事業も、村に変化をもたらした。校長のウーウィンヤンナインスーさんは、煌々と部屋を照らす電球を指差しながら、「明るいでしょう。開発事業の収益でつけたんですよ」と、微笑む。

 開発事業とは、村が持続的に学校を維持していくための収益事業のことで、マイクロファイナンスに取り組む村が多い。セダナーが建設事業と併せて開発事業を支援するのは、学校運営を通じて村の自立と発展を後押しするためだ。

 ここインポーコンユワティッ村でも、村で選ばれた開発委員会が2012年から村人に低利で半年ずつ融資するマイクロファイナンスを運営している。希望者は、信頼に基づき村から借りたお金を、利子と併せて返済する。「以前は富裕者からお金を借りていたため卑屈になっていたが、今は村から堂々と借りられる」と好評で、返済が滞ったことはない。その収益を活用して学校に電気を引いたほか、校庭の周りにフェンスを建てたり、トイレに行く渡り廊下に屋根をかけたりした。最近は常に135人以上が融資を受けている。

"New hopes are growing out of the school building that villagers constructed together"

Hopes for better education

より良い教育への願い

The project’s 15th period was completed and the village is beginning to see changes. The villagers gained confidence as the school was granted recognition and now it can provide education up to 8th grade, instead of 6th grade. People become more ambitious and are aiming higher. Than Myat Mo who runs a small shop selling rice and oil purchased by loan raises two children and Kay Ma Tue who volunteered to be a school management committee member raises two children both have the same ambition for better education. “In the future, we want to promote our school to become a high school where children can stay up to 10th grade.”

The members of the development committee share the same ideas. At present, many of the villagers not only work on their fields but also commute to the village 2.5 miles away by boat and work at textile factories there. But the members say, “In the future, we want people to stay and work within the village.” “To realize that we need to nurture personnel who can create industries and jobs in the village.”

Watching them warmly, Principal U Wai Yan Soe looks satisfied. He confesses that when he came to this school last December, he was surprised at the super-positive attitude of the villagers discussing their future with high aims, which was different from the previous school he worked. But now, he is confident that the villagers will continue to improve the school system and promote their village’s growth.

New hopes are growing out of the new school building that the villagers constructed together.

 15期目を終え、村は少しずつ変わり始めた。6年生までだった学校が、自分たちの頑張りで8年生まで学べるようになったことで自信がつき、より上を目指すようになったのだ。借り入れ金で近くの市場からコメや油を仕入れ、小売店を営みつつ2人の子どもを育てるタンミャッモーさんも、自ら学校運営委員に名乗りを上げて活動しながら子どもを2人育てるカイマートゥエさんも、より良い教育への願いは同じ。「今後は10年生まで通える高校にしたい」と口をそろえる。

 開発委員会のメンバーも、思いは同じだ。今は畑仕事の傍ら、2.5マイル離れた湖の入口の集落まで舟をこぎ、織物工房などで働く人が多いが、「ゆくゆくは村の中で働けるようにしたい」「そのために、村に仕事をつくる人材を育てたい」と意気込む。

そんな彼らを見ながら、ウーウィンヤンナインスー校長は嬉しそうだ。目標を持って将来を語り合う人々の姿は、前の村の学校とあまりにも違い、昨年12月に着任した当初は驚いたという校長だが、今は、彼らが今後も計画的に学校を整備し、必ずや村を発展させていくことを確信しているという。

 村が一丸となって建てた新校舎から新しい希望が芽吹き、育っている。

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