FOURTEEN Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) students who are based in Burma were unaffected by the earthquake that shook the northeast of the country on Thursday last.
Margaret Clarke from DkIT’s Lifelong Learning Centre made contact with the students and one teacher, Catherine Daly from Co Cavan, shortly after two strong earthquakes struck on March 24.
“I was worried when I heard what had happened but luckily, everyone was alright,” she said.
Two strong earthquakes struck the Thai-Burmese border less than a minute apart and could be felt as far away as Bangkok.
However, a tsunami did not occur. The first 7.0-magnitude quake was just 10km deep, according to the US Geological Survey.
It was followed by another of the same strength but far deeper at 230km down. The 14 DkIT students, who live in a refugee camp, are taking part in an innovative online learning pilot project run by the college.
The distance learning project has been in development since 2008 and was launched in May 2010.
It has given 14 Karen students in the Mae La refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border the chance to study for three years.
The minority Karen people, fled to Thailand to escape civil rights abuses in Burma.
The students are studying modules on politics, sociology and community development by watching lectures streamed into the refugee camp over the Internet.
“For the first two years, the students cover a range of modules, predominantly related to the issues surrounding conflict,” said Ms Clarke.
“The students are looking at the conflict in the North of Ireland, and in their third year, they will do an internship with the charitable organisations in the camp.”
Ms Clarke added: “The students are near to completing their first year. They are currently looking at issues relating to re-settlement.
“The course also looks at issues of identity, culture and community. We have taken our existing courses and are adapting them for students who live in Mae La, which has a population of about 50,000.
“There is a well-developed primary and secondary education system in the camp but there isn’t a lot of third-level programmes which have internationally recognised qualifications.
“We are trying to bring accredited online courses to the camp, which will hopefully enable the students to help their own community.
“But before we can get accreditation, we first have to run this pilot project successfully.”