Mya Khwa Nyou: Hi. My name is Mya Khwa Nyou and this is my school.
Shelby: Seventeen-year-old Mya Khwa Nyou is a student in Myanmar.
Mya: This is our library where we have different kinds of books.
And this is our schedule. We go to school from nine in the morning to four in the afternoon.
Shelby: Just like teens in the U.S., Mya and her classmates read, write and study hard.
Mya: We are learning six different subjects: Burmese, English, mathematics, physics, chemistry and economics.
Shelby: When they are not in school, they like to hang out, watch TV and go to cafés with friends.
Mya’s life might sound similar to the lives of teens in the U.S., but her country is worlds apart. Myanmar, also known as Burma, is located in Southeast Asia and shares borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. But even though it has a lot of neighbors, Myanmar was cut off from the outside world for much of the past fifty years while under the rule of a military group called a junta.
The junta was officially dissolved in 2011 and Myanmar has started taking steps towards democracy. But the country has a long way to go, and the people are still struggling to catch up with the rest of the world.
Shelby: Have you ever been to an ATM?
Mya: No. Never.
Shelby: What about buying something online. Have you ever bought anything online?
Mya: No, I have never bought anything on the internet.
Shelby: Thanks to recent reforms and a new president who was elected in 2010, people have gained more freedoms and can now access things like banks, email and television. But about a third of the country lives in poverty. And living conditions can be tough.
Mya: This is our house. Here you can see the ducks we are raising.
Shelby: Like many in Myanmar, Mya lives in a small hut with her family.
Mya: This is our kitchen, and these are lunch boxes for my brother and sister. And I sleep on the floor. I put down a mat like this and sleep with a blanket.
Shelby: Her house does not have bedrooms, electricity, or running water.
Mya: This is the water we drink and this is where we bathe.
Shelby: One thing Mya does have at home is an altar.
Mya: Here is our Buddha shrine.
Shelby: Like 89% of Myanmar’s population, Mya is Buddhist.
She explains that Buddhism plays an important role in society. Spiritual leaders known as monks can be more powerful than politicians. And Buddhist monasteries often serve as shelters, distribution centers and schools for the poor. In fact, Mya’s siblings attend school at a monastery nearby
Mya: This is my sister.
Shelby: Because monasteries aren’t funded by the public, they rely on private donations. And even young kids help collect money.
Mya: I would say our country is safe because we are Buddhist and we are peaceful.
Shelby: For now, monasteries in Myanmar help fill in the gaps left by the government. But Mya hopes that the country’s new leaders will continue taking positive steps for the people.
Mya: There are a lot of things to be changed, like in education. Right now we are in the changing process, but a lot of things need to be done.
Shelby: What do you want to see happen in the future?
Mya: I think youth today are future leaders for Myanmar. I want to help build the country, and I hope all of my friends can contribute their efforts to building the country too.
Shelby: Shelby Holliday, Channel One News.
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- How are Buddhist organizations filling in gaps not addressed by Myanmar’s government?