By Chularat Saengpassa
A four-year-old boy, for example, has learnt to walk at the Nakhon Phanom Special Education Centre in his hometown.
“We are pride to have helped this four-year-old boy to stand up and walk. He no longer crawls around anymore,” the centre’s director Supot Chapinjai said proudly during a recent visit to the centre by the secretary general of the Education Council, Suphat Champatong.
Located in the northeastern province of Nakhon Phanom, the centre has taken care of 264 children with special education needs, 140 learning at the centre itself and the others at home with the help of the centre’s officials.
The centre has a strong team of 62 members, many of whom are dispatched to the homes of those with special learning needs to provide help and guidance.
Supot said there are several ways to stimulate learning and development among children including those with intellectual disabilities.
According to Suphat, there are about 780,000 people in Nakhon Phanom town and at least three per cent have some type of disability. He believes it is necessary to help the physically disabled access educational services so that they can develop and live a normal life.
“With proper development, they won’t be a burden to others,” Suphat said. “It’s important that we reduce educational inequality”.
The Nakhon Phanom Special Education Centre worked with several agencies including local hospitals, local administrative bodies, and networks of people living with physical disabilities or autism, in providing services to children in need.
Supot said parents were initially reluctant to send their kids to his centre out of concern of abuse or exploitation. But after seeing how his centre works and what it has achieved, the number of children under his care is now in the hundreds.
“We do our best. We even bring some kids to pediatricians to prepare what is best for them. In some cases, medicines are needed alongside physical therapy and training,” he explained.
There are plenty of facilities for the kids, among them a classroom with colourful balls, a drawing room as well as ample space for various activities.
The Nakhon Phanom Special Education Centre has so far only cared for children. Once they turn 18, his centre coordinates with other agencies to ensure they continue to receive care or get vocational training.
“I appreciate what the Nakhon Phanom Special Education Centre has done. I think it sets a good example for many others to follow,” Suphat said.
The Nakhon Phanom Office of the Non-Formal and Informal Education, meanwhile, is also doing its best to cater to the different education needs of people under its supervision.
“For example, there are teenagers who have dropped out of schools because of various problems such as pregnancy,” the office’s deputy chief Sroy Sakunden said.
Also under her office’s supervision is a large group of elderly people who now make up 14 per cent of the province’s total residents. The town itself is home to some 100,000 people over the age of 60.
The office collaborates with Tambon Kham Thao Administrative Organisation in running a school especially for the elderly and it has proved popular, with its oldest ‘student’ now 93 years old.
“Our elderly school has been opened for two years,” said Chulakorn Khetsupang, an official of the Tambon Kham Thao Administrative Organisation, “We have sought help from the Nakhon Phanom Office of the Non-Formal and Informal Education for help with vocational training such as weaving, cooking and even dancing”.
Kongkaew Chamart, 69, said she used to carry smelling salts around but left all those items behind after learning how to dance like a pro at the school.
“Now, I carry cosmetics,” she said happily as she prepares herself for a show.
Another 66-year-old grandmother said it was fun learning new dancing moves to reflect new trends like mini hearts.
“You know, we even have Like and I Love You dance moves,” she laughed.
The school offers an afternoon class every Wednesday. All are welcome.