By Kornrawee Panyasuppakun
From a construction site to classroom, 22-year-old Aung Chan says education has given him “another world”. Before enrolling in Wat Srisutaram School in Samut Sakhon Province, the then-13-year-old Myanmar migrant worked at a construction site with his parents. Now he hopes to get an engineering diploma at a Thai university and start a business in his homeland.
Aung Chan is one example of some 300 migrant and stateless students who get to study for free at Wat Srisutaram School each year. They are the fruit of the government-subsidised “Education for All” initiative, which is supported by the school board and the Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation (LPN). The initiative ensures free education for everybody.
The government provides the funding, while the school and LPN provide special classes, where children get to learn basic Thai before they can enter Grade 1 and study with their Thai peers.
The school also gets financial support from companies in Samut Sakhon province such as big seafood chain Thai Union, Prasan Sarawong, former Wat Srisutaram School director, said at a seminar organised by LPN, Safe Child Thailand, Terre Des Hommes and Chulalongkorn University yesterday. Migrant workers account for almost half of the population in Samut Sakhon.
The school director said he considers himself the students’ “big father”, and does his best to ensure the teachers are fair with all students despite their nationality.
Schools offer more than a bright future, they also offer “safety”, Patima Tungpuchayakul, co-founder of LPN, said.
She set up the rights network with leading activist Songpong Srakaew.
She said that educating children reduces the chance of them being used as child labour at factories or put in dangerous working conditions.
Meanwhile, LPN deputy committee chairman Surapong Kongchantuk said the government should provide more support to make the Education for All policy accessible to more migrant and stateless children. He also called for concrete support for non-Thai speaking students, in terms of budget and personnel, so they can be given basic Thai knowledge and can join public schools.