To begin with my testimony, I am the youngest one in the siblings of my parent namely Maji Tu and Hkangma Htu who moved from Lai Mawk village in Mungmyit Kudawng areas (Mungmyit Kudawng Ga in Kachin) located in northern Shan state to Lashio, meaning I was born in Lashio.
When I was growing up, most of my siblings had already died, including my eldest brother who was shot dead in the battlefield while serving the KIA. Since I was a matriculation student, my dream was to go abroad for further study in search of international education because I wanted to be an internationally educated Kachin so as to take part in Burma’s political movement for the Kachin issues. By that time going abroad, Japan in particular, was highly popular in the Kachin communities as job opportunities for highly incomes though. I was aware that English language was the key to study abroad, therefore, I attempted to find ways and opportunities for living in Yangon in order to learn English language skills. Unfortunately, all my efforts went in vain as my parent could not afford and at the same time there was no a single closed relative to live in Yangon to do so.
In 1994, I commenced my undergraduate study in Physics major as a full-time student, what was called as a day student in Burma University’s context and completed in mid 1997 from the University of Mandalay. Consequently, I was employed by 101 Project Old Soldier in 1997 after all universities in Burma were shut down by the military government and all my services in 101 were for the Kachin communities in the remote and mountainous areas for 13 years.
On the other hand, I continued learning English as a self-study by listening VOA special English, reading American Mosaic, News and Features and Reader Digest through monthly subscriptions while serving at 101. Therefore, you could find a pocket English-English dictionary, some of the English books stated above, and a pocket Tecsun radio in my rucksack all the time. While serving at 101 Project, not only did I build up English skills through self-study but also taking a course in English on Community Development Management given by Thai-German Institute as a distant learning program and received a diploma certificate after nine months in 2004. Fortunately, I was selected to study agricultural research at Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC) in Kasetsart University, Bangkok while working in 101 Project and it took for six months in 2005.
My dream had been ambiguous as the time went by and I was a father of three kids. Most importantly, to make a living for my family was of the top priorities and I was encountering thousands of difficulties and hardships including financial issues in my own family. As a consequence, I gave up my dream for a while, probably for five years as far as I remember.
However, further study in a foreign country always tortured my mind as a virus since I was not able to fully abandon such a dream although my family’s situation and my age seemed to be impossible to pursue the dream. Hence, I was trying to analyze whether I should forsake my dream forever or it was not too late to make it happen and the answer was ‘Yes’ because my wife also agreed to make such a decision.
As a result, I joined an English Test by Naushawng and I was accepted. Yet there were several challenges to join Naushawng’s Intensive English Program, on the one hand I was not able to arrange any family income and my boss from 101 Project was reluctant to let me go easily on the other. Eventually, I decided to take all these challenges in terms of risks and joined the Intensive English Program in 2010 at the age of 37.
In short, I received a scholarship for a master program, Development Management and Governance at the University of Philippines Los Banos, after the Intensive English Program and again it was too risky to leave my family for further study, but I took the risks. Revealing my struggle for further study, I should not forget my wife’s cumbersome efforts that she took all responsibilities including financial issues while I was studying in Philippines. By the grace of God, I was able to complete the master program in late 2013 through thousands of hardships and difficulties.
Fortunately, I was employed by United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) for an economic survey in Myanmar once I was done my master degree. Again, my satisfaction on higher international education had never stopped and it seems that it might never stop.
Therefore, I applied two scholarships for a PhD program while working at UNESCAP and one was granted, for which I said ‘Thank God’. Then I continued my PhD voyage in August 2014 and completed in November 2018 after facing myriads of challenges and hardships. Even now, I am still thinking whether I should continue a Post-Doctorate Program after four or five years if the opportunity and my situation would turn into favors in the future.
I hope that you all would be inspired!!!
All the best,
Dr. Yaw Htung Maji [1st Batch of NCS]
Ph.D in Human Rights and Peace Studies
Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies
Mahidol University, Thailand