By Prasit Tangprasert
The Prathom 6 pupil – identified only by his nickname “Arm” –told his teacher last week that he needed the time off from school to take care of his three-month-old half sister with a cleft lip and two other siblings aged 1 and 6 – each of whom were born from a different father – as well as his maternal grandparents’ five-year-old son while the grandparents were working.
“I feel sympathy for the boy but I don’t know what to do. If we don’t work, there is no money to cover the household expenses -–which are at least Bt200 a day,” Arm's 44-year-old grandmother, identified only by her nickname “Daeng”, said. Daeng and her husband work as scavengers to earn money to cover the household’s daily expenses.
Daeng previously had four children whose father had long passed away, and so she had raised them on her own in a makeshift hut at the municipal dumpsite until her three children were grown and moved away. After being told to vacate the dumpsite, Daeng met her new and current husband, whose son allowed them to build a house to live on his land. Daeng’s 26-year-old daughter left Arm and three children under Daeng’s care when the daughter broke up with her husband and moved away to find work in Muang Nakhon Ratchasima.
Arm’s unusual request prompted his two Ban Mai Patiroop School teachers to visit his home, where they learned about the impoverished living conditions and reported this to school director Wattana Khankhaeng, who in turn reported it to Primary Education Area Office director Peerapong Surasen. That resulted in a visit by officials and an initial donation of rice, dry food, clothes and some money.
Peerapong said Arm needed to complete the compulsory education at Mathayom 3, and had asked the boy to continue studying and take days off as necessary. The boy could take home assignments for the lessons he missed, while his class teacher would check in on him regularly to make sure he catches up with peers, he said.
“I'm proud and happy to be able to take care of my brothers and sisters and lessen my grandparents’ burdens despite some tiredness and lack of my own playtime,” said the schoolboy, who also asked that kind-hearted people donate milk powder, baby clothes and diapers for his two younger siblings.