Education and Arts

Student stories

Read the personal stories of some our graduates of the Diploma in Liberal Studies, an 18-month program offered to Burmese Refugees in Mae Sot and Ranong on the Thai-Burma border.

This course is unique in providing tertiary education for suitably qualified Burmese refugees and migrants. It gives them hope for the future and says ‘you are important’ – something they have never been told in their lives”

- Fr John Larsen SM, superior of the Marist Fathers in Ranong.

Stories from our students

Muriel from Mae La Muriel from Mae La refugee camp

"My name is Muriel. I am from Mae La refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border. The chance to have access to tertiary education is very limited. There are thousands of youth in refugee camp who are just wandering around, only about 50 are seeking and striving to get higher education. In 2014 among 40 applicants from Mae La Camp for the ACU Diploma, 9 were chosen, including me. Yes this is a very high privilege for 9 of us, but I would like to mention that there are thousands of youths who have rights to have the same privilege like me but because of the limited knowledge in a limited space, they have been left out and then continue to live with the limited mind having no vision for future. As I have learned in the Introduction to International Development course in ACU, this is the “vicious circle”. We need to stop this circle and develop our community.

I am so thankful to all volunteers who have supported us and who are striving for us without taking any benefits for their own. Because of their affection I can raise up my voice now to demand for the educational rights of the refugees young people."

Muriel is one of five ACU Diploma graduates who received a full scholarship to study at The Hong Kong Institute of Education in 2015.

Saw Zay Yar Nay Win Saw Zay Yar Nay Win from Ranong

Saw Zay Yar Nay Win and Shwe Thin Zin spoke on behalf of the graduates sharing their journey to university studies. “Five years ago, we heard that Australian Catholic University (ACU) provides online Diploma courses. We tried to figure out “What is that?” “What kind of education is that?” Our hunger for more education in our life grew from that time. We were so proud of the previous ACU students. We were smiling looking at them on their graduation day and imagining ourselves wearing the graduation gown. We said to ourselves that one day we will be like them. Now, we are all wearing graduation gowns. Our lives as migrants are full of struggles. Most of us had to leave schools from Myanmar because of difficulties of survival. We had to follow our parents and come to Thailand to work.

We were extremely hungry for education despite all of these difficulties. Once Allan Bloom has said, “Education is the movement from darkness to light”. Our country, Myanmar is still in the darkness. Education is the greatest weapon to change our country.”

Saw Zay Yar Nar Win is now teaching Mathematics and English in the Marist Asia Foundation School in Ranong.

Kyaw Naing from Ranong Kyaw Naing from Ranong

“My name is Kyaw Naing. I was born in April 7, 1986. I attended school when I was five years old. Unfortunately, I had to leave from the school after I finished grade two because of financial problems. I thought it was temporary but it was not temporary.

In 1997, my family had come to Kaw Thaung for work. I worked as a water seller and a garbage collector every evening. While I was collecting garbage, I always saw many students on the road who wore green Long Gyi and white shirts. I was sad, I wanted to be like them but I thought I have no chance to attend the school. I even told myself "You are not to become a student in this life". Every time when I prayed I strongly wished to complete school and to be a university student for a better life. Unluckily, my family income was not enough so my parents planned to go Thailand.

In 2012, I had an opportunity to join a group called "Future Group" which was an MMR group teaching the kids especially who are out of school. After a few months, my English had improved so teacher Ronald told me "Kyaw Naing you can join Australia Catholic University next time." I was so happy even I could not sleep the whole night.

But some friend teased me "You are silly. How come? You just left from grade two in Myanmar. How can you join? You are such a dreamer!" I challenged them "No! I will try. I can do it". I decided to spend all my time in study. I studied very hard. Every day I studied from 7:00 pm to 12:00 am and I listened to English Conversation while I was working in day light. I wrote vocabularies on the white board hanging in my room and work place. I spent more than 8 hours per day for my study through more than a year including our Evening Class. After I studied two months in the MMR Bridging programme, I sat the entrance exam for ACU. I PASSED! I was very happy and I even cried at home and I could not sleep the whole night.”

Kyaw Naing graduated with the ACU Diploma in Liberal Studies in 2015 and got married. He has two good jobs and is able to take care of his elderly parents.

Thoo Lei Paw Thoo Lei Paw

“The knowledge I acquired and the Diploma I received from ACU is the key for me to open the door of tertiary education. Tertiary education was just a dream for people like me who were brought up in the refugee camp along Thai-Burma border. The ACU Diploma I received qualified me to apply for an OUA (Open Universities Australia) scholarship and now I’m awarded with the scholarship and I’m waiting to start studying at OUA.

ACU equipped me with the knowledge and skills that enable me to perform my responsibilities effectively as a Social Studies trainer. One of my duties as Social Studies trainer is to upgrade Social Studies teachers in the seven refugee camps along Thai-Burma border with subject matters related to Social Studies, for example – religion, social relation, economics, rights and responsibility, etc. The knowledge I acquired from the courses offered by ACU such as Anthropology, Human Rights and Third World Politics are of great help for me while preparing myself for Social Studies Subject Matters Upgrading Training. Besides, I also have to manage and monitor teacher training in Umphiem and Nu Poe camps. The knowledge I acquired from Leadership and Management courses equipped me with management skills so I am able to manage and monitor my time."

Thoo Lei Paw graduated from the Diploma in 2012.