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Home Feature Stories Myanmar: After Cyclone Nargis Old Schools Reborn - No. 1 Kamaryut High School

Old Schools Reborn - No. 1 Kamaryut High School

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Old Schools Reborn
No. 1 Kamaryut High School
No. 4 Ahlone High School
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No. 1 Kamaryut High School
The damage sustained by this school for girls in Yangon was less severe than that of the previous two. However, the damage was enough to force the school to cut school days short, offering half-day, rather than full-day, classes. This abbreviated schedule is necessary in order to accommodate all the students, but it impairs their studies. It’s no surprise that everyone is most eager for the school to be repaired so the students can resume their normal schooling.

Kamaryut High School has a proud history of 58 years with many achievements, according to the principal, Khin Kyone. Fully 67 percent of the class of 2008 passed their college entrance exams. Students also excel in intermural contests, especially basketball and martial arts.

Unfortunately, athletic training at the school has been severely curtailed. The gym is too dangerous to use, as are three class buildings and the cafeteria. From a distance, those buildings appear to be standing quite normally. However, closer inspection reveals cracked pillars, slanted beams, and collapsed ceilings. The damage bears witness to the awesome destructive power of Nargis.

Although its roof was almost torn off and its walls and floors cracked, the gym remains structurally sound due to the strength of its wood frame. The three Malaysian architects on the school repair team marveled at the gym’s engineering. Architect Tang Yong-tai (唐永泰) exclaimed excitedly about this gem of a building, “This is a union of beauty and structural mechanics!”

None of the pillars in the gym were built perpendicular to the ground. Instead, pairs of pillars in “V” formations were built from the foundation up. Wooden bars connect the main frames, forming crosses and triangles for a strong truss structure. Buildings based on steel trusses are rather common, but the gym (built four decades ago), unlike most buildings, is constructed entirely from wood. Volunteers on the repair team fully intend to retain as much of this treasure as possible.

No. 1 Mayangone High School
Founded more than six decades ago in the Northern District of Yangon, Mayangone High School has been through some rough times. According to the principal, Aung Kyi, the area was caught in fierce crossfire between invading Japanese and defending British troops during World War II. By the end of the war, the town had been heavily damaged. Thousands of children were left with no schools to attend. At that time, Dharma Master Saidimar vowed to build a school. He sold his property and led his disciples to donate funds for the cause.

The school opened in 1946 and enrollment kept climbing. Master Saidimar and his followers turned the school over to the government in 1954. Though now a public school, a statue of its late benefactor stands in the auditorium.

In April 2008, one of the school buildings burned down as a result of an electrical fire. Twelve classrooms were destroyed. Soon after the fire, Nargis brought more destruction to the school. Principal Aung Kyi, barely three months at the helm, was left to pick up the pieces and rebuild from the double blow. But he is undaunted.

“I come from here,” Aung Kyi said. “Many students here are my relatives—even my two grandsons study here.” At 59, he is eligible to retire, but he vows to stay on and oversee the reconstruction of the school. He plans to retire only when the construction is complete, a proper end to his 34-year teaching career.

He gave Tzu Chi volunteers a lesson in local geography. Pointing at a map of the country in the hallway, he said that past cyclones had almost always first hit Arakan State, northwest of Yangon. The high mountains of that area tended to weaken the cyclones before they could hit areas further inland. But Nargis didn’t follow the usual path. Instead, it made landfall further south and east than normal, hitting Yangon head on with full force. It caught the region off guard and exacted a heavy toll on lives and buildings.

This school, like many others in the region, suffered a great deal. Its students have been forced to attend school either in the morning or afternoon, but not both. The school has also taken in 50 students from other schools in the vicinity. Tzu Chi plans to demolish buildings unsafe for use and build new classrooms. A new page has just been turned in the school’s history: The school was born in 1946 because of the mercy of a dharma master, and it is reborn in 2008 because of the Great Love of another dharma master—Master Cheng Yen.


 

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Jing-Si Aphorism

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