25 years after the 1988 uprising, the university where Myanmar’s democracy movement once took root is about to open again.
Yangon University has been at the centre of civil discontent throughout its history.
When US President Barack Obama spoke here a year ago, he stood in the same place where the movement calling for the end of colonial rule once began.
“It was here that Aung San edited a magazine before leading an independence movement. It was here that U Thant learned the ways of the world before guiding it at the United Nations.”
Aung San is considered to be the Father of modern-day Burma, while U Thant was the third Secretary General of the United Nations.
After the massive student uprisings that erupted in 1988, Ne Win’s military dictatorship sought to liquidate the democratic movement by shutting down the university for years.
And now, for the first time since 1996, the university will take in undergraduates.
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Ko Ko Gyi remembers the campus the way it was in 1988.... when he played a leading role in the uprising against military rule.
His activism landed him in jail for almost twenty years, and in the meantime, Myanmar’s junta became known for its instinctive fear of higher education.
“Our political leaders and internationally prominent academics always came from Yangon University. We would like to revive and preserve this tradition.”
Young citizens can once again dream of studying at the historic college, but the option is not there for everyone.
Only 300 students have been offered a place.
Myo Myint Tun has passed his high school exams with flying colours and he can barely contain his excitement.
“Ever since I started high school, I have wanted to study at Yangon University. I’m so glad it’s finally happening.”
Nevertheless Ko Ko Gyi says that education in Myanmar will need to be modernized in order to bring the country into the 21st century.