Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sole indiscretion: school acts over camp sketch gone wrong

Jul 01. 2019
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By The Nation

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A school apologised to parents and students on Tuesday after a monk caused a furore on social media by ordering senior students to carry 100 pairs of shoes in their mouths during a bizarre role-playing exercise at a Dhamma camp.

Prommanusorn School in the central province of Phetchaburi pledged to never again invite the same group of Dhamma camp speakers and would also review its camping activities and discuss activity ideas with the parents’ network before implementation, as to prevent such re-occurrence, the school said in its statement published via facebook.com/prommanusorn/.

The controversy came to attention via a Facebook page “Neelare Prathet Thai” (trans. This is Thailand) on facebook.com/neelare.Thailand - the post had received 14,000 reactions, 572 comments and been shared 13,000 times by Monday afternoon.

The camp was held for Prommanusorn’s Mathayom 4 students on Saturday and Sunday, as it has been every year over the past decade with the intention of creating students of good character and with the potential to become good-quality citizens, said the school.

As part of a psychological process to instil desirable values in the children, the monk devised a role-playing exercise, in which he had the senior students, who were acting as “nannies” for the Mathayom 4 pupils, taking a punishment on behalf of the younger kids, the school explained. It acknowledged, however, that the shoe-carrying-by-mouth episode was “difficult to understand” among both participants and observers, and that many parents viewed it as a human rights violation, so the school was acting to ensure it never happened again.

The “punishment” reportedly took place in front of the younger students, who felt so badly about it they wanted to help their seniors but were told to stand aside and were forced to watch it for 30 minutes.

The post carrying the school’s statement received 2,000 reactions, 12,000 comments and had been shared by 11,000 online users, as of Monday afternoon.

A Thai woman (whose name was withheld) said her daughter was among the “nannies” ordered to carry a Mathayom 4 students’ shoes in her mouth. 

“As the parent of an affected student, I feel terrible over such action,” she said. “There are many other ways to instil a sense of responsibility among kids. I’m glad the school took responsibility and expressed its willingness to change. Thank you.”

Another enraged mother (name also withheld) disagreed: “I won’t forgive you,” she insisted. “Do you know my daughter has become so stressed and has been crying in bed? 

“She was traumatised - who will be responsible for this?”

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