Emergency COVID-19 response on psychosocial support to Myanmar Education Colleges

Emergency COVID-19 response on psychosocial support to Myanmar Education Colleges

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, teacher educators have been under a lot of stress, wondering if Education Colleges will reopen as scheduled for next semester and anxious about delivering quality teaching to their students as the new competency-based teacher education curriculum continues to be rolled out. As they grapple with their own fears and uncertainties, teacher educators also need to support students who are also deeply concerned about the potential disruption to their learning and their future.

The Strengthening Pre-Service Teacher Education in Myanmar (STEM) Programme, funded by Australia, Finland and the UK, and managed by UNESCO, has been supporting the Ministry of Education in upgrading the teacher education curriculum and the Education Colleges to a four-year degree programme. As part of the programme’s emergency response to COVID-19, it was agreed with the Ministry of Education that priority should be given to the health, safety and wellbeing of teaching and non-teaching staff and student teachers at Education Colleges. A Psychosocial Support Focal Point System was established with teacher educators from 25 Education Colleges.

The teacher educators, who were selected as focal points by the Ministry of Education, were then given a two-day online training on the basic concepts of psychosocial support and psychosocial first aid on 7 and 8 May 2020. The  teacher educators who participated in the training remained very engaged during the two days online training. They expressed great satisfaction with the training and looked forward to support their colleagues and student teachers as they prepare to reopen the Education Colleges for the next semester.

“It was an excellent training that was relevant and timely,” said Daw Kyi Kyi Khin, a teacher educator from Thingangyun Education College. “Soon, there will teachers and other staff members returning from other states and regions to our Education Colleges who will need to undergo self-isolation for 21 days. They will be worried and frustrated – both physically and mentally – as they face this situation. We can provide basic counselling support to them based on what we have learned through this training.”

Ye Lin Aung, a teacher educator from the Myitkyina Education College, said he was excited to share what he had learned from the training with his students when classes resume and sees the psychosocial support training as being useful beyond COVID-19.

“As our college is situated in Myitkyina,  Kachin state, our student teachers will be deployed to remote areas near the border to serve as teachers when they complete their studies. Since there are still ongoing conflicts between ethnic armed groups and the military in some of those areas, I can prepare my students, who will become teachers in the coming years, to provide necessary psychosocial support to the children they will teach. This training has been very useful for us.”

In the COVID-19 recovery phase under the STEM Programme, the teacher educator focal points will be given further training to conduct orientation sessions for their colleagues in their respective Education Colleges on the psychosocial impact of crisis and emergency situations and on ways to deal with it as well as psychosocial support and social-emotional learning activities for the student teachers.

By Dolly Shein