Health and education

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"A good education system is necessary for the long-term development of a country and we all are responsible to work for the improvement of the education system." (Source: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, speech given on National Day, November 2002).

The healthcare system in Arakan State and throughout Burma is very poor. The military government spends anywhere from 0.5% to 3% of the country's GDP on health care, consistently ranking among the lowest in the world. Although healthcare is nominally free, in reality, patients have to pay for medicine and treatment, even in public clinics and hospitals. Public hospitals lack many of the basic facilities and equipment. In general, the healthcare infrastructure outside of Yangon and Mandalay is extremely poor but is especially worse in remote areas like Arakan State. The entire Arakan State has fewer hospital beds than the Yangon General Hospital. The following is a summary of the public health care system in the state.


No. of Hospitals

No. of Beds

Specialist hospitals



General hospitals with specialist services



General hospitals



Health clinics






The health situation in rural areas of Arakan State is poor. Medicine is difficult to access and malnutrition from food shortages remains a problem. Some villagers including new born babies die of treatable diseases and maternal death during childbirth is common due to a lack of proper clinics and medicine.

EducationArakan State also suffers from high levels of illiteracy among children, as well as adults. Most of the village tracts have at least one primary school (class 1 to 4); although school attendance in remote areas is lower due to distance and lack of communication during the rainy season. Widespread poverty keeps many children from attending school as they are compelled to financially support their families, especially during the winter and summer seasons when students assist their families on their farms. Public education exists among higher level schools, middle school (grades 5 to 8) and high schools (grades 9 to 10), as well as self-supported schools, where students' families and villagers have to pay the teachers in cash and in crops.

Education levels are also worsened by the lack of teachers and teaching facilities in rural areas and the poor quality of teaching. Many teachers choose not to work in rural areas due to a lack of facilities and poor communication and transportation in the area. Teachers receive a negligible salary, compelling them to increase their income through other means.

There is only one university in Sitetway, the capital of Arakan State, and two colleges: Government Technological College (GTI) and Computer College. The only option for students from Arakan State is to study at Sitetway University, unless they are admitted to Rangoon University or another institution.

Education in Burma has been severely impacted by more than four decades of military rule. The military regime views potentially politically active university and high school students as one of the biggest threats to their grip on power, so all-non military education is treated as expendable. The regime has a fear of student movements, given the history of student movement in the past people's uprisings and as a result, the regime often shuts down the schools and limits the freedom of education. All civilian schools and universities throughout Burma suffer from a lack of resources and qualified educators, a problem found in many developing countries; however, unique to Burma is the fact that the ruling government actively tries to thwart universal and advanced higher education.

Due to the deteriorating levels of education available at government schools, students and parents are increasingly turning to other educational options when these are available. In Arakan State, a large number of students are reportedly leaving government schools to enroll in schools run by Buddhist monasteries. Many people in this area believe that monastic education is better quality and less expensive than education at state-run schools. There were approximately 500 students enrolled in just one monastery in Sitetway, the capital of Arakan State.

Only a small percentage of people in Arakan State who passed high school are able to pursue their higher education; although, the majority of students are unable to continue onto higher education for economic reasons. In order to support their families, many students have to quit schools to take jobs that do not require a high education level, sometimes migrating to other countries where there are more employment opportunities. Other students cannot attend universities because they have fled their homes or been imprisoned for political activities.

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