Gems on the lower rungs shining bright

opinion August 18, 2014 01:00


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WHILE Thailand no doubt needs to improve educational quality, it is not always necessary for efforts to be top down. Every player in the field and related sectors can contribute.

When real efforts are made, small players like teachers and people in remote provinces after all can make a difference too. 
In the northeastern province of Chaiyaphum, teachers at the Ban Bung Khla community school have practically adopted a few students.
“The level of teachers’ devotion increases when they treat the students like their own children,” the school’s director Thanomjit Inthong said last week. 
One of the school’s teachers, Sriprapai Prommanee, adopted a girl with Down’s syndrome and has spared no effort in educating her with kindness. Today, the girl is 15 years old and is studying happily at the school.
To other students, Sriprapai is also a terrific teacher. As a tribute to her amazing teacher’s spirit, the Quality Learning Foundation has honoured her with a “Good Teacher Award”. 
Using the time-tested guideline of teaching Thai language with caring devotion, she has usually managed to equip her students with some writing, reading and speaking skills in four months. Other teachers at the school have also worked hard for the benefit of the young, including the many underprivileged ones. 
The output of the Ban Bung Khla community school is indeed so impressive that several other schools want to follow suit. 
In its footsteps are also schools from other provinces including much bigger provinces like Nakhon Ratchasima. 
In Suphan Buri, dedicated locals and teachers have managed to save and strengthen a school that was targeted for closure a decade ago. Back then, the Education Ministry planned to shut down Wat Chainarat School because it had just 27 students. 
Chamlueang Klinlamduan, 40, recalled that she was absolutely determined to help the school out of that crisis by improving its educational quality. Better educational services are one of the conditions that will allow a small school to stay open. 
“I have been teaching here for two decades already and over the period, I have seen it going from strength to strength,” she said. 
With a dedicated staff, average Ordinary National Educational Test scores of Prathom 6 students at the Wat Chainarat School are higher than other small schools. 
Students from Wat Chainarat have also claimed several awards at academic competitions. Unlike several other teachers who are tremendously busy doing reports or academic work to seek a promotion, Chamlueang’s focus is on her students. “I’m happiest when I’m in the classroom. I feel uncomfortable attending administrators’ meetings. So, I have decided to stay put here. I have never sought a higher post elsewhere,” she said. 
This small school has been thriving on the devotion of teachers like Chamlueang as well as the caring contributions from the community. Locals have helped significantly with the construction of the school’s library, canteen and toilets. Wat Chainarat has proven to other small schools that they need not bow down to constraints. They can make the best out of available resources, and enjoy the results. 
Such classic cases are around not just in small numbers. In fact, such great efforts have been made here and there with tangible results. So, little by little, better changes are happening. 
It’s just that such efforts must not stop and all players, regardless of their positions, should review their role and decide to do the best they can. 
Up North in hilly Mae Hong Son, an 11-year-old boy with a visual impairment would have been kept at home without any knowledge of the world had the Mae Hong Son Model not been launched. The model has materialised because a foundation came up with the idea of setting up special education centres for disabled children and officials have eagerly joined in.
Today, the boy can read and do many things by himself. Instead of being a dependent, he now has bright hopes that he will be able to further his study and pursue a dream career.
Another good example is a volunteer teacher based in Nakhon Ratchasima, Warattaya Jantarat. She has spent most of her time during the past nine years with underprivileged children who roam around the railroad in Nakhon Ratchasima. She has reached out to the young in the hope of giving them the much-needed light of their lives. 
“I don’t just teach them how to read or write. I have taught them about life skills, personal hygiene and responsibility too,” the volunteer teacher said. 
Without her and her employer, the Nakhon Ratchasima Municipality, many children would have risked falling prey to human traffickers and drug traffickers. “I want to be here and help the children. They need to understand the risks out there and how to avoid them,” she said. 
Her inspiring determination has won support from a growing number of people. A local silk expert has agreed to open his facility to Warattaya’s students. 
“The place is vast enough for them to play in and learn how to weave. Their concentration gets better and they will pick up some work skills for their future,” she said. 
All small players, indeed, can give better lives to so many children. And they don’t need to wait for policies from the top of the pyramid.