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Lop Buri schools battle to get back on their feet

Many relying on donations to buy textbooks, make repairs

Floodwaters have dried out in most areas of some schools in this province. However, studying and educational activities cannot begin as usual, so the directors have planned ways to fulfil students' learning.

Many students have still not returned to school since the second semester opened in the middle of last month. Some students were seen wearing casual clothes to school as the floods had swept away or soaked and damaged their uniforms. Some had to paddle to school. A school cannot even teach its students for the whole day. These problems were manifested during a recent visit by flood rehabilitation volunteers and the media.

"Only 40 out of the total 170 students go to school now. We can teach them only half a day because only one toilet is usable, which is not enough for the teachers and students," said Wissanu Adisornchuchai, director of Singharerkprasit School.

He estimated that the school has lost Bt1.7 million since the flood started submerging their assets and valuables in late September. The floodwaters were higher than two metres, covering the whole first floor of the school.

As Bang Kham Canal runs at the back of Singharerkprasit School in Tha Wung district, some parts of the school near the overflowing canal are still immersed in 10-20 centimetres of water.

"We cannot make up any classes or provide extra classes for our students. It is even impossible to teach them a full day now. We cannot pump out the water as the school is next to the overflowing canal," said Hannarong Chopradit, a teacher at the school.

But, to help students study according to the required periods stated in the curriculum, Wissanu plans to have them study an extra hour each weekday plus on Saturday once many more students can go to school.

His teachers also met those who could not go to school and distributed self-study books on major subjects so they could study and do the exercises at home by themselves. And he assigned a teacher to help two colleagues teach Prathom 1 and 2 (Grades 1 and 2) students, the levels most suitable for strengthening reading and arithmetic skills.

Sittipong Pruksa-arporn, deputy director of Lop Buri Educational Service Area Office 1, said 101 out of the 207 schools under the office's supervision had been hit by the deluge.

"We estimate Bt101 million in losses at all the flooded schools," he said.

Ban Bang Lee School in Tha Wung district was under 2.3 metres of water on average when floods hit the school. Almost all of the books and textbooks in the library on the first floor were destroyed, said Keatisak Sittisup, the school's director. He estimates Bt3.7 million in total losses.

About 85 per cent of the 149 students were now attending school after the floodwaters abated.

"Fortunately, without a problem of unusable toilets, the school can teach the students the full day and started make-up classes this month, which will last until mid-February," he said.

The students there have to study an extra hour every weekday plus on Saturdays.

Flooded textbooks both at the school and at many of the students' homes was a big problem, so he decided to buy textbooks on credit from a bookstore to allow teaching and studying to begin as soon as possible.

"Doing that means I broke a regulation (of the Education Ministry), but I had to do it for the sake of my students. Studying has to be continued. I cannot wait until I receive a recovery budget from the ministry that I don't know when is coming. I can explain it to the ministry if asked," he said.

He would probably hold a merit-making ceremony to request donations from the public to pay for the textbooks.

Wichien Sukkhasem, director of Thammikaram Temple School in Ban Mi district, estimates losses of Bt800,000-Bt1 million after the school had been underwater since September 20 and mostly dried out early this month.

Lamai Prajongkij, a teacher, said floodwaters reached 1.70 metres, which was higher than the huge flood that hit her school in 1995. It left the school under about 70 centimetres of water.

Wichien said his school had started holding make-up classes for all the 112 students after the end of classes on weekdays and on Saturdays since early this month.

A group of Prathom 6 (Grade 6) students at Thammikaram Temple said they agreed with the school to make up classes even though they had to study harder and longer each day.

Sittipong said his office was concerned that the shorter semester would hurt students' academic performance and make them get a low score on the Ordinary National Educational Test (Onet) next February.

"Students had to take the pre-Onet last Thursday, so teachers will analyse whether they have problems or which parts of the main subjects they don't understand before focusing on teaching the parts they don't understand. This is a method we will use to fix their weak points during this limited time," he said.

Without knowing when the ministry would allocate recovery budgets and how much they would be, the directors are requesting assistance and donations from people who want to help.

Thammikaram Temple and Singharerkprasit schools still need textbooks for their students, while Ban Bang Lee School needs construction materials to rebuild its fence, including cement poles and barbed wire. Many more damaged assets need to be rehabilitated.


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