Hidden rural tragedy is a time bomb for Thailand  

your say September 05, 2018 01:00

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I recently gave my family permission to tell me to shut up every time I bring up the subject of education, a personal passion which is getting out of hand because of my feelings of powerlessness.

Alas, on Sunday my wife answered the phone and spoke with someone for about 10 minutes, then briefed me about the news. A man in the village was joining the Thai workforce in Israel for two years, leaving his wife to look after their two young children. We could call the new fatherless family a semi-skipped generation household. My wife went on to emphasise how lucky the wife and kids were to have a guaranteed income from overseas.

I instantly recalled the middle-aged farmer who had sat at my kitchen table a few months before, the tears running down his cheeks. Despite also having spent years working abroad, he had run out of money and had to go overseas once again, leaving his two young children with their grandparents as he clutched at what was probably his last chance to secure their future. The kids, as often occurs, unwillingly plunged back into the skipped-generation community.

My wife, anticipating another lengthy talk on how skipped-generation children rank among the lowest for educational attainment in Thailand, immediately used her recently gained powers and told me to shut up.

I obeyed, but my synapses were immediately jammed with suppressed answers: the poverty that deprives children of parental inspiration/motivation, and the special skipped-generation teachers, and advice and training for caregivers (see the Rajanukul Institute Bangkok webpage) that might offer solutions to the tragedy afflicting rural Thailand.

My mental traffic jam was soothed as I gazed at the rice fields through the window and took a sip of coffee. I had passed the domestic test, but outside in the village two more parents had been forced to leave children behind. And this nationwide tragedy is not confined just to families. Studies indicate that the huge number of children being brought up in skipped-generation households means the country won’t have the skilled workforce necessary to transition to the 21st-century digital economy of Thailand 4.0. 

Dirk Sumter

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