“Translation” of Section 2
History of University Engineering Education in Burma/Myanmar
by U Ohn Khine (M 70)
Rangoon University Engineering Students’ Union (RUESE)
Among the activities of engineering students from the period of Faculty of Engineering (1947) to Burma Institute of Technology (1961), the most prominent activity was the formation of “Rangoon University Engineering Students’ Union” (Ah Ka Tha)
Rangoon University Students’ Union (Ta Ka Tha), which was formed in 1931, was the main union which represented all the university students. It remained till the Second World War. When the university reopened after the war, and with the formation of various faculties, respective students’ unions were formed. RUESU was among them.
RUESU was formed in 1947. The first annual magazine published by the RUESU came out in 1951-52 academic year. Four annual magazines were published between 1947 and 1962 (when the union was abolished). They came out in (1951-52), (1952-53), (1956-57) and (1960-61) academic years. From the annual reports of the RUESU which were included in the magazines, activities of the Union and the students could be clearly seen.
A mass meeting of students was called and drafted a constitution, which was later agreed upon to form the RUESU. According to this constitution, patrons and executive committee, class representatives were elected at the first meeting held in the beginning of the academic year. This EC strived to enhance the students’ education, health, welfare and social activities without any political influences. Respective committees for the various activities were formed at the first meeting of the EC. According to articles from the annual magazines, there were seven Patrons including [Sayagyi] U Ba Hli, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, for the 1951-52 academic year. President was Ko Ohn Ghine (2nd year) and General Secretary, Ko Teza Tin Ohn (4th year). For the 1952-53 academic year, there were twenty five Patrons including Dean U Ba Hli. President Ko Ohn Ghine (3rd year) and General secretary Ko Pu (3rd year). Names of Patrons were not mentioned for the 1956-57 academic year, with Ko Tint Shein (3rd year) as President and Ko Aung Ba Thein (3rd year) as General Secretary. Names of Patrons were not mentioned in 1960-61 academic year also with Ko Sein Hlaing (3rd year) as President and Ko Tin Myint (2nd year) as General Secretary. The list of the executive committee members of the RUESU in (1951-52), (1952-53), (1956-57), (1960-61) academic years were shown in Appendix A and members of the magazine committee were in Appendix B.
There were 296 engineering students in 1951-52 academic year, and 172 joined RUESU. The union set priority for the members first, and then for all the students and staff at the Faculty of Engineering. Union membership fee was one Kyat. The first annual magazine was published in 1951-52 academic year, and a uniform for the university students of engineering was designated by the union. It was a simple one, a white shirt, khaki trousers and a khaki neck-tie. Ko Myint Than the Social and Sports organiser, arranged to have the students into six groups in colors, and had inter group competitions for the enhancement of the students’ social and academic affairs. Football, volley ball, tennis and academic competitions were arranged.
Movies were occasionally shown at the halls for the fund raising of the Union, and the Union helped solve the academic difficulties of the students by submitting these difficulties to the Board of Studies.
A ten point Demand, unanimously agreed by the students at a mass meeting on 6th August 1951 was submitted to the Senate by the RUESU on 21st August 1951. Detail of the ten point demand is shown in Appendix C.
The Senate did not take any action on the Demand for three months. The Vice-Chancellor also did not treat the union representative properly when asked about the Demand. So, a mass meeting was called on 30th November 1951 and a decision to stage a symbolic strike from 3rd to 7th December 1951 was unanimously agreed upon. Two of the demands were replaced with new ones. The students resumed their classes on 10th December 1951. Because of this strike, Senate started to take action on the Demand. As the Union acted in a disciplined manner and without any political aims, Senate acquiesced to most of the ten point demand.
The activities of the RUESU, according to the annual report of the general secretary (1952-53) were:
– electing Patrons and executive committee
– accepting new members
– collecting 1 Kyat each for membership and annual fee
– publishing annual magazine
– industrial exhibition, prize giving ceremony and annual dinner
The most outstanding final year student prize was awarded to Ko Teza Tin Ohn. 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes for the students from first to final year were presented by the Dean and Patrons.
A silver statuette for the most outstanding student was awarded to the final year student who excelled in every sector of the student’s life. It was not enough to be excellent in academic sector only to clinch the award, but must have a good relationship with all the students also. This award was given by RUESU, and initiated in 1950. The recipients were Ko Thein Lwin (1950-51), Ko Teza Tin Ohn (1951-52), Ko Tin Shwe (1952-53), Ko Maung Maung (1953-54), Ko Tha Tun Aung (1954-55), and Ko Nyi Nyi Thant (1955-56).
Engineering students participated in various sports activities. Engineering students’ football team went to Moulmein, played and beat the Tenasserim and Moulmein selected team. Prome Hall football team won the Inter Hall competition trophy for two consecutive years. Besides that, the Union arranged excursion trips to the industries and factories for the first and second year students and also trips for the third and final year students with the help of the Dean.
Efforts of the students in the previous year (1951-52) materialized in this year. Stipend awards were increased to 110. There were only 16 in the previous year. Books required for the library were ordered. A Social and Reading room was allocated and had furniture, and newspapers. For the appointment of a librarian as included in the Demand, a draftsman was appointed [instead] and took care of the library.
Two visiting professors from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) arrived. Four assistant lecturers from India were hired on contract basis. More laboratory equipment were ordered, which included equipment for survey works, machinery for hydraulics lab, heat engine lab, strength of materials lab, soil mechanic labs and electrical lab.
Efforts by the RUESU during the ( 1951-52) academic year [finally] bore fruit in the (1952-53) academic year.
Mass meeting of engineering students for the 1956-57 academic year was held on 1st August 1956. Patrons and executive committee members of RUESU were elected at the meeting. A systematic plan for the development of education system of the faculty and students was adopted. Union emphasized on the peaceful pursuit of education without any political influence, and to achieve good rapport between students, good relationship between staff and students, and to have more engineers who could serve the country.
To achieve success for the union’s objectives, five basic plans were drawn. To enhance engineering students’ education, rights, welfare, social dealings and health & fitness were the five basic plans of the union. (See Appendix D)
Working committees were formed to implement the above tasks. They were Magazine committee (Chairman Ko Myo Aung, Secretary Ko Aung Khin), Committee to demand students’ rights (Ko Tint Shein and 9 members), Committee to publish set answers to previous exams’ questions (Chairman Ko Maung Maung Myint, Secretary Ko Tin Aung), Entertainment committee (Chairman Ko Walter Thant, Secretary Ko Saw Lwin), Seminars and film shows committee (Ko Hla Myint , Ko Chit Swe). Various committees performed their jobs efficiently throughout the year. Union also took part wholeheartedly in the opening ceremony of the new building of the Faculty of Engineering on the 22nd November 1956. A commemorative dinner was also arranged on that night with about 1,400 guests. They were entertained by the engineering students musical troupe and “Kaw Leik Myaing Ah Nyeint”. Burma Engineer Association and RUESU jointly held a dinner to honour the graduates at the hall of the faculty. Honorable guests including Premier U Nu attended the dinner.
Ko Nyi Nyi Thant achieved the most outstanding student award for 1956-57 academic year. Awards were given to students who stood 1st, 2nd and 3rd respectively in their classes. “Pinni Taikpon” was chosen as the Burmese uniform for the engineering students. RUESU managed to get these dresses [at reasonable price] for the students. RUESU also actively took part in the commemorative Bo Aung Kyaw [student martyr] Day held on the 20th December 1956.
RUESU organized students to participate in a one-day token strike arranged by the union on 11th December 1956, to demand the abolishment of the 3F system.
The amateur musical troupe of the RUESU aired their entertainment through the Burma Broadcasting Service on 22nd December 1956.
Executive committee members of RUESU for 1960-61 academic year were elected at the mass meeting held on 26th August 1960. Ko Sein Hlaing (third year) and Ko Tin Myint (second year) were elected as President and Secretary respectively. (List of members in Appendix A). Magazine committee was formed on 15th September 1960, with chairman Ko Ne Tun and secretary Ko Khin Maung Myint. (Appendix B). Sports committee was formed on 22nd September 1960 headed by Ko Soe Win (final year) with various sports groups formed for respective sports activities. Class representatives were also elected.
The elected executive committee declared the objectives (to be implemented) as follows:
1. to achieve higher engineering education standard
2. to have good relationship among students
3. to stand for the rights of students
4. to have good rapport between teaching staff and students
5. to achieve the above without any political influences.
Based on these objectives, tasks to be done immediately and long term tasks were divided and adopted the following tasks.
1. to get a separate autonomous engineering institute
2. to strive for long term establishment of the union
3. to make a yearly paid tuition fees system
4. to abolish the 2 F system
5. to get employment for every engineering graduates
6. to increase the number of stipend awards
7. to take care of students’ welfare
8. to update the engineering education system so that internationally recognized engineers will emerge.
9. to get professors appointed for Civil, Mechanical, Electrical and other departments
The union implemented these tasks with the simple idea and belief of a student, without any political influences.
There were infiltration of political interests starting from 1957, and dissent began to appear inside the union. The union was in control by groups such as DSO, and Ye Gaung who had backing from the government. This control lasted for three consecutive years, after which students with no political attachment gained control of the union again. When the care taker government under General Ne Win took control of the country, the role of RUESU as well as other unions was kept to a minimum. Nevertheless, due to selfless efforts of RUESU executive committee members, some of the students’ demands could be achieved in 1960-61 academic year. They were:
1. In 1958, Dean U Ba Hli was transferred as Chief Engineer of University Estate. No permanent dean was appointed in his place. U Pho Tha, Dr. Tha Hla and Dr. Maung Maung Kha who were Rector and Professors jointly acted as Dean of the Faculty of Engineering. RUESU submitted a demand to appoint a permanent Dean with engineering background and who had good rapport with teaching staff and students, to the University Council meeting held on 13th August 1960. Council replied that they were looking for a suitable person for the post.
2. Union requested for a day or two rest period between exams days, because the present system of daily examinations with many subjects to sit for, was too much a burden on the students. This request was sent to the Dean and all department heads.
3. Union submitted a demand for the abolishment of the 2 F system (a student who failed two consecutive years was barred from the exams ) for 3rd and 4th years to the University Council meeting held on 13th August 1960. Union agreed to this, and those who were barred from the exams were readmitted in 1961-62 academic year. Union also demanded to readmit those students from 1st and 2nd year, who became external students under the 2 F system.
4. Union managed to publish Rangoon University Students’ Union annual magazine in spite of the tight financial conditions.
5. Union tried to develop sports activities, but could not achieve the aims because of dire financial conditions.
6. As the jobs entrance examinations for engineering graduates were not appropriate principally, Union urged the government through Industry Minister U Raschid to waive these examinations.
By looking at the annual reports of the Union in the RUESU annual magazines, the strenuous efforts of the RUESU to enhance the engineering education and students’ all round developments could clearly be seen. These efforts all came to naught when the Revolutionary Council came into power on 2nd March 1962. RUESU was disbanded under the new law (issued in 1963) banning associations.
With the support of Sayagyi U Ba Than and Saya U Thaw Kaung, Chief Librarian of the Rangoon University Central Library, Saya U Soe Paing compiled materials. Most articles and correspondences from the early periods were in English. Based on Saya U Soe Paing’s work, the editorial team headed by Saya U Aung Hla Tun, former Editor-in-chief of RIT Annual Magazines and also a National Literary Award winner, wrote the book in Myanmar/Burmese.
U Ohn Khine and I prepared the companion CD for the book. It included photos (too many to be incorporated into the book), bio of Sayas and sayamas, articles for the SPZPs, and excerpts from my Updates.