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Reuters-UNICEF puts Myanmar at bott (r)

Subject: Reuters-UNICEF puts Myanmar at bottom of the class

UNICEF puts Myanmar at bottom of the class
06:49 a.m. Nov 12, 1998 Eastern

BANGKOK, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Less than a third of all children in military
ruled Myanmar now complete primary school, one of the lowest percentages in
the world, the regional director of the U.N. Children's Fund said on

``Primary school coverage in Myanmar has plummeted to one of the lowest
levels in this region and one of the lowest levels in the world,'' Kul
Guatam, UNICEF director for East Asia and the Pacific, told Reuters.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a conference on children and

Until the military seized power in Myanmar in 1962 the country enjoyed one
of the best literacy records in the region.

``Primary school completion rates are now about 27 percent, which is very
low,'' Gautam said, adding that this compared with an average rate of about
81 percent in Vietnam.

``Myanmar right after its independence (in 1948) did a very good job in its
education and in literacy. They were one of the more successful countries,''
he said.

``In basic education there has been this deterioration that worries us

Guatam said UNICEF was also very concerned about higher education in
Myanmar, where schools and colleges have been kept closed by the government
for most of the decade since troops crushed a student-led uprising for

He said that unlike university level, the problem at primary level was more
one of neglect than deliberate policy, although the lack of teacher training
had the effect of discouraging school attendance.

He said two successful UNICEF projects in Myanmar had shown what was
possible.  ``It's not only a financial problem,'' he said. ``In areas in
which we are involved the coverage is not 27 percent, it's in the 70s,'' he

``So what this shows is that it's possible to improve and one of our
messages to the government and to others is please replicate these working