The Students of the
School for Shan State Nationalities Youth
⇒ Eighth Training ⇐
The stories you tell in this book are important stories to share. In this book, you document the ongoing oppression of the people of Shan State at the hands of the military junta in Burma. Many of you have had family members killed by the regime, or watched family members die because of the lack of decent medical services. Many of you have also known what it is like to have your village burned and family and friends tortured. Most of you also know what hunger feels like because of the extreme poverty and deprivation your communities endure. Your stories document the injustice and inequality experienced by the people of Shan State and, in fact, so many other communities within Burma. However, equally important, you document hope.
Pursuing an education is acting on the belief that the future can and should be better. You did the hard work to get into SSSNY, and then complete the program, because you know that education is what will move the people of Burma forward to a better future.
And, in part because of the extraordinary educators at SSSNY, but even more thanks to the extraordinary people you are, you will help make this happen. Each of you, in your own way, is a leader. Indeed, a good education leads to action—and it is clear to me that Burma’s hope for the future now rests in your capable hands.
My fellow Nobel Laureates sisters and I spend a great deal of our time talking to youth around the world because we strongly believe that you have the power to bring about positive change. As I told you when we met, I had the good fortune to meet my sister Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in 2003. Though circumstances have not permitted us to talk since that time, I can say with confidence that she is proud of your achievements. We all are.
Each and every one of you will make a huge difference to the lives of your people. Some of you aspire to be doctors, others educators or artists. Stay true to who you are, and your vision for a better world, and I know you will achieve what you set out to do.
Thank you again for sharing your stories. Though my colleagues and I cannot be at your graduation, please know that we are there in spirit. You have our support, and our gratitude for your hard work and your achievements.<
Nobel Peace Laureate
Growing up in a country run by one of the world’s most brutal military regimes you don’t often get a chance to tell your story. That’s why, shortly after we arrived at SSSNY, I set my students a task of keeping a diary. I wanted to give them a chance to record their experiences and feelings, so that I might gain a better understanding of their situation. For many, this was the first time they had revealed their past. Their stories deeply moved me. I was appalled as I read about the horrors they’d experienced at the hands of the SPDC, yet was fascinated to learn about their ethnic traditions and culture. Most of all I was humbled and inspired by their incredible strength of spirit.
Their stories were so powerful that it was clear that this had become more than a mere writing assignment for them. Taking inspiration from “Letters from Shan State”, a publication produced by previous SSSNY students, I was convinced these stories should be similarly shared. For the students this book became an opportunity to convey the growing sense of outrage and injustice they felt as, during the course of their studies, they explored the fundamental rights they had been denied.
Together, we began working on a collection of stories that would open Shan State and Burma to the outside world. The stories included in this publication have been selected by the students from their original diaries. Many have been edited numerous times and set in context but they remain the true stories of young people from Shan State. The experiences detailed, whilst deeply personal, are shared by many young people from Burma. Amongst these shared experiences, survival and the overcoming of adversity outrank all others.
The military regime may have devastated a country but it has not destroyed its people. These stories stand as a testament of the strength and courage of the people of Shan State and Burma. Read them, be inspired, and join with them in the struggle for justice, democracy and freedom.
Program Teacher, SSSNY