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Stranded Myanmar seminarians offer free English coaching classes

Myanmar’s candidates for priestly formation are stuck at home, as seminaries and spirituality centres are closed due to Covid-19 and political crises for over a year.
Students from two parishes on Islands in the diocese of Pathein, Myanmar, are attending free English classes in the parish center. (Photo: Raymond Kyaw Aung)

Myanmar’s candidates for priestly formation are stuck at home, as seminaries and spirituality centres are closed due to Covid-19 and political crises for over a year.

Two of these seminarians offer free English coaching classes for young people living on two islands, Pinle and Peinnegone, in the Ayeyarwaddy Region of Myanmar.

For almost a year, John Newman and George Eh Tar, seminarians from Myanmar’s Pathein Diocese, lead English classes for over 70 students, including four Buddhist girls.

The seminarians planned to join the Institute of Spirituality in Taunggyi in Shan State in the eastern part of Myanmar. But due to the Omicron threat and political unrest, the Institute is still closed.

The participants are from Pinle parish, which includes the island villages.

John Newman says, “The students are perseverant. But the age groups vary in their proficiency in English. It is difficult for us to teach them all at the same level. We have separated them into two groups.”

“It is a great opportunity for me to teach them because I can update my English language by imparting my knowledge,” Newman told RVA News.

He added, “I do not need to stop learning and studying.”

Newman worries about staying too long at home, “If I stayed at home too long, I might change the vocation.”

George Eh Tar, Newman’s companion, told RVA News that he hesitated to go to the Island because he was worried about his health.

“I worried about my health and teaching before coming to the Island. I had no experience teaching students. Now, it is quite ok for me. No worry anymore.”

Father Patrick Zaw Lin Thant, a parish priest of Pinle, says that the young generation should do better. “Young people have the ability. I enhance their capacity.”

Father Patrick Zaw Lin Thant started the initiative of the free English classes.

“I am satisfied with their enthusiasm. Not only English language is taught, but also moral and social knowledge is imparted in the class,” expressed Father Zaw Lin Thant.

Father Sylvester Kyaw Min Htay, the associate priest of Pinle parish, admits it’s an opportunity for young people to learn English.

Young Shwe Thein one of the participants, is glad to join these classes.

“The classes are beneficial because we can speak, write, read, and understand the English language better than before,” she said.

Parishioners like Patricia appreciate the efforts of the priests and seminarians but regret that her daughter cannot attend these classes.

“I acknowledge Father Patrick’s effort for teenagers very much. I even want my daughter to attend the class. But my daughter must stay home to keep for the grocery shop.” 


Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.”  Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.