The junta recently arrested some 15 people in Mandalay for reportedly teaching at an online school operated under the publicly mandated National Unity Government (NUG) in defiance of the military council.
Military personnel blocked off at least three streets in Aungmyaythazan Township on March 22, initially taking 10 people into custody. That evening, locals said that they apprehended four more teachers, including Ei Shwe Zin Myint, the woman in charge of the program in question: the Federal School of Aungmyaythazan.
“They have been investigating the school since it opened,” a local resident said. “I heard that they came to register at the school pretending to be parents of students and got the information necessary to make the arrests. […] I’m surprised that the military located them in their homes to arrest them, despite the fact that they were teaching under pseudonyms.”
Junta officers also confiscated computers and curriculum materials used by the teachers, the source added, noting that some of the teachers who were initially targeted had managed to evade arrest and go into hiding.
Military-run newspapers confirmed the arrests on April 5, accusing the 15 individuals of teaching “illegally” and using fees from the school to fund the People’s Defence Forces—anti-junta armed resistance groups under the NUG—but did not specify what charges the teachers were facing.
Following the arrests, another Mandalay local commented to Myanmar Now that it had become “a serious crime in this country for school teachers to teach children.”
The Federal School of Aungmyaythazan has been offering online classes from primary to high school levels since early 2022 which are attended by children boycotting the military council’s education system.
Students, parents and teachers protested the junta’s control of the school system following the February 2021 coup, with many vowing not to return to the classroom under military rule.
The NUG, formed by elected parliamentarians who were ousted in the coup, responded by establishing online schools across the country as an alternative to those operating under the army’s administrative mechanism.
The regime has been imprisoning teachers working at these schools, as well as parents or guardians who enrol their children in the NUG’s educational programming.
A 72-year-old woman from Shwebo Township in Sagaing Region was arrested on March 16 after she was accused of sending a child under her legal guardianship to attend an online school operated by the NUG, as was a woman in her 60s across the country in Danubyu, Ayeyarwady Region, two days earlier.
A data leak in July 2022 led to the arrest of some 30 teachers from Magway, Mandalay, Tanintharyi and Sagaing regions, as well as Shan and Mon states, who had been working with a popular online private school with ties to the NUG, called Kaung For You.
Following these arrests, the NUG’s ministry of education released a statement calling the detention of the teachers a rights violation.
“The right to education is a fundamental human right. No one should be threatened or arrested for teaching or learning,” the statement said.
Some 40 academic staff who had gone on strike following the coup were also detained in Mandalay in the two months that followed.