Decades of isolation and economic stagnation in Myanmar have contributed to poor infrastructure and lack of access to education. Today, most children in the country don’t even complete primary school. They will surely be less educated than their grandparents.

As part of visit to educational projects in the Shwe Pyi Thar region in Myanmar, I visited two schools run by monasteries. Over 100 children sat in three classes, divided by partitions. They were lucky to be here. Although the schools are free, most of these kids work at night to help their families. Many work picking up plastic bottles to sell for recycling, bringing home 30 cents a day if they’re lucky.

Despite the hardship, the children were happy and enthusiastic. There was a sense of hope about the changes going on in their country. Yet it was clear that the changes haven’t reached these children. They know change has happened, but their lives appear just as hard as they were before the introduction of democracy.

At a stop to an informal school in someone’s house, I saw 50 children huddled together. These are the children I am most concerned about. They’ve already quit the mainstream school system or have never had the luxury of going at all.

While hope is palpable throughout Myanmar, I know the children I met have an almost impossible road ahead of them.

Author: Caroline Boudreaux is the Founder of The Miracle Foundation, a social entrepreneurial venture that revolutionizes the way orphanages are run worldwide, starting in India.  She is a 2009 Young Global Leader. 

Image: Children attend a class in Myanmar REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun