Klong Toei school a rare beacon of hope

national May 14, 2014 00:00

By Tanpisit Lerdbamrungchai

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Parents in 'slum' wish education will bring their children a better future

SERVING AS a school director in a rundown area of Bangkok, Pornnicha Chataphan is not so sure how many students will return to their classes when the new semester starts this Friday. 
“Some students will just stop coming to school. This is what happens every semester,” the director of Mooban Pattana’s community school said. 
Pornnicha pointed out that such a situation was rather common because every family in this area of Bangkok’s Klong Toei district was struggling with its own problems. 
“Our students come from cash-strapped, broken families,” she said. 
Although Pornnicha can never force all the children in the school’s neighbourhood to class, she has done her best to minimise school dropouts. 
“Our teachers keep visiting our students and their parents at home to explain to them that education is a must. If we keep children in school, social problems will decline,” she said. 
She said that while some students were aggressive towards school, no teachers had given up. 
“We just need to use a lot of psychological tactics,” she added. 
Her school has 30 teachers and 600 students. Classes from Prathom 1 up to Mathayom 3 are available. 
In addition to family problems, financial difficulties are a major reason several families find it hard to keep their children or grandchildren at school. 
“My husband and I work as loaders at the Bangkok Port. Each time, we are paid Bt200 and Bt400 each. But it’s still an irregular income. We are not hired every day,” Thongleun Thongteun said. 
She has two children, 20 and 12 years old. The elder one has studied in a high-vocational programme, while the younger one is still in Prathom 6.
While the Mooban Pattana community school offers free classes, free lunches and free milk, the parents still must shoulder their children’s other educational expenses. 
Thongleun said she really hoped her children would get a university degree one day. 
“I hope good education will help my children when they grow up. I don’t want them to face a tough life like I have,” the mother said. 
Speaking from a little ramshackle house, Chuan Kohkaeo has four children and grandchildren to care for on a budget of Bt5,000. The oldest child is in Prathom 6, while the youngest is just three years old. 
“My health is too poor to work. So I have to rely on money that my children have given me each month. But clearly, that amount is not enough to feed all five of us. Often, we have scraped by with free food given by neighbours,” Chuan said. 
While she laments the hard lives her family has faced, she feels grateful that the Mooban Pattana community school provides even free school uniforms and free lunches for children. 
This school is under the supervision of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration. 
The rundown area in Klong Toei district, often referred to as the Klong Toei slum, spans 816 rai (130.5 hectares). It comprises 42 small communities. Total population in this rundown area is well over 87,000; of this number, 30,000 are youths or young girls.

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