New project aims to keep Yala children in school

national December 16, 2013 00:00

By Tanpisit Leardbamrungchai

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An entrepreneurial project has been developed by the Quality Learning Foundation in Yala province to keep children in school until the 12th grade.

One of the many success stories under the so-called Case Management Unit (CMU) scheme is that of a seventh grader, Nurisan Tuanyee, of Municipal School 5, who sells grey oyster-mushroom tempura. She grows the mushrooms and then cooks them herself.
Coming from a poor family, Nurisan was screened to take part in the CMU project at her school. The project then provided Nurisan with a loan, which enabled her to set up her business and earn an income from selling the popular mushrooms. 
From Nurisan’s earnings, the CMU project allocates her a daily allowance of Bt30, while the rest of the money is put into a bank account, supervised by the school and CMU management.
Nurisan lost her father when she was only 3 years old, leaving her mother to raise Nurisan and her four siblings on a meagre income of only Bt150 a day, cutting nipa palm leaves. 
Despite studying hard and receiving good grades, Nurisan was categorised as “being at risk” of prematurely leaving school before compulsory education ends in 12th grade. She is now one of 36 out of 1,004 students at her school who has been accepted to take part in the CMU scheme. However, despite funding and support, six of the students chosen under the scheme have left school prematurely, with two of them becoming pregnant.
The CMU manager at the school, Thalernsak Ratchamrong, said he had decided not to give the funds to students in one instalment to prevent them from overspending. 
“We pay them on a daily basis,” he said, “But if they need a large amount of money at some point, they may submit a request and we will then consider each one on a case-by-case basis.”
Nurisan is not the only student involved in the grey oyster-mushroom tempura project. It now involves a number of students and has begun making larger profits with a new menu of tempura.
Out of a total of 10,000 underprivileged children in Yala schools, around 6,000 are categorised as “at risk”. Male school children are considered particularly vulnerable, as they can be lured out of their schools and recruited to join insurgency cells fighting the government in the deep South. 
Yala Governor Dejrat Simsiri said provincial authorities were also running parallel projects aimed at encouraging students to continue their studies by offering career training to their families. Another project encourages parents to support their children’s education. “We are trying to convince families that they will suffer even greater hardship if they don’t support their children’s schooling,” he added.
A new survey of underprivileged children in Yala will be conducted again next year and those who have left school will be approached and encouraged to return – at least until they complete 12th grade.