The Karenni Social Development Center (SDC), based on the Thai/Burma border, will run a training course for 50 young adults from June 2016 to March 2017. The programme focuses on non-violent social change, environment and law. After finishing the course, some graduates will become mobile trainers, working as activists to spread their new knowledge and skills in the border areas, as well as in Burma, in the Karenni state. Other graduates will find jobs in local community based organisations.
Over 20 years, more than 22,000 Karenni people have become refugees in Thailand. Many more live as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) within Karenni State, and still more are living in hiding inside Karenni State. Even though there are many thousands of young Karenni people in the refugee camps, they have very limited opportunities for education and training because of security reasons and restrictions imposed by the Thai authorities. The SDC provides much needed educational opportunities for young people that do not know about human rights and how to protect their rights. The program creates graduates who can share their learning as Mobile Trainers, creating a brighter and crucially more just future for people on the border and in Burma.
The school’s approach is both practical and interactive, with the students spending 9 months in the classroom and 1 month working in the field to gather and present testimony related to their coursework. The program includes classroom teaching, group work, field trips, discussions, presentations, reporting and assessment. The students receive 6 hours of in-class training and between 2-3 of homework per day. Topics covered include: knowledge of Earth rights, human rights, environment, dams, women’s rights, non-violent social change, democracy and government, law, English and computer classes.
“SDC is good for our community because knowing about the subjects is good for our life. We must know about them to develop our community and to make change in our community.”
Lee Reh, SDC 2015 student
The SDC has produced 339 human rights, environment and rule of law activists from 2002 to 2016. Many graduates have become involved in community-based organizations such as women’s organizations, youth organizations, camp administration, the judicial system and other human rights and environmental organizations in refugee camps and on the border. Many have returned to Burma to teach the KSDC curriculum, at great personal danger, to communities inside Karenni State. Most, however, have joined the staff of Karenni organizations to continue the struggle for refugees’ rights and prepare for the community’s eventual return to Karenni State.