Yi Wai Lyn: Leading education for children with disability
Posted: 15 December 2020
Australia Awards alumna Yi Wai Lyn is committed to providing education for people with disability. She was inspired by her mother, a teacher of children with disability who cared deeply about her work.
Yi Wai Lyn first became interested in education for people with disability when she was 18. “I started teaching a child with autism and he improved a lot after six months. I began learning about disability so that I could help other children to develop their potential,” she says.
In 2004, Yi Wai Lyn founded LightHouse Learning Centre in Yangon for children with disability, with a focus on children with autism. That year, she went to Singapore for two months to learn about behaviour management and teaching techniques for children with autism.
LightHouse Learning Centre was acknowledged by the Department of Social Welfare in 2006. Since then, Yi Wai Lyn has been invited to give lectures and provide disability inclusion training for government staff. With the Department of Social Welfare, Yi Wai Lyn is a trainer for Early Childhood Care Development and is involved in curriculum development. She has also worked as a technical consultant for organisations such as Myanmar Autism Association and the Myanmar Special Education Association.
This dedication to working with children with disability led Yi Wai Lyn to receive an Australia Awards Scholarship in 2014, enabling her to study a Master of Disability Studies at Flinders University in South Australia. “I had heard that Flinders University was popular for its courses in disability studies,” explains Yi Wai Lyn.
Reflecting on her Australia Awards Scholarship experience with pride, Yi Wai Lyn says, “My academic productivity developed, and I had a great opportunity to learn about the cultures of Australians and international students.”
The experience also enabled her to exchange her leadership experiences with other leaders. “Before, I was only thinking about LightHouse. But after my Master’s degree in Australia, I have started thinking about the people with disability in my nation as well,” says Yi Wai Lyn.
“After returning to Myanmar, I became more confident in dealing with disability education and managing networking programs. My participation in government departments and NGOs increased.
“Most importantly, through my studies I learnt the connection between disability studies and the importance of the country’s policy, rights and ethics.”
Yi Wai Lyn’s Australia Awards experience triggered an ongoing exchange of experiences and knowledge between Myanmar and Australia.
Her professor from Flinders University visited and observed the LightHouse Centre in 2017. After returning to Australia, her professor accepted an Australia Awards Fellowship to implement education programs with Myanmar. This saw Yi Wai Lyn lead a five-week study tour for 14 Myanmar people who work with children with disability to Finders University in 2018.
After that, teams of staff and students from Flinders University visited Myanmar in 2018 and 2019. They conducted workshops and training, gained practical experiences at LightHouse and other organisations in Yangon, Mandalay and Pyin Oo Lwin, and promoted disability inclusion. Yi Wai Lyn connected leaders from Flinders University with those from disability focused organisations in Myanmar.
Unavoidably, this year the COVID-19 pandemic has affected Myanmar and caused numerous challenges to people’s lives. In March, Yi Wai Lyn closed LightHouse Learning Centre in response to government instructions. Some children who are supported by LightHouse and their parents are struggling with the changes.
“I keep in touch with parents to discuss their children’s behaviour, give homework and hold progressive lessons. Moreover, I provide counselling for parents and give them advice online,” explains Yi Wai Lyn.
“In August, I launched a six-week online program so that students could continue their learning.”
Yi Wai Lyn is steadfast in her commitment to education for her students. “We cannot stop providing education during this uncertain time, no matter how challenging it is.”