Thai school aids 11 year old’s return amid pandemic-driven dropout crisis

PHOTO: Unsplash/Mario Heller

An 11-year-old Thai boy, Anirut Thongdech, also known as Saming, has been given the opportunity to return to school after being forced to leave when his family could no longer afford his education. Saming’s family struggled financially due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused his parents to become unemployed and resort to collecting recyclables for a living. Wat Trangkhapum Putthawat Municipal School, near the temple where Saming’s family found shelter, stepped in to help by providing him with uniforms, stationery, and textbooks.

The school’s director, Kalasit Petkong, revealed that many children have had to abandon their education due to the financial struggles brought on by the pandemic. Wat Trangkhapum Putthawat Municipal School itself has 97 students, 60–70% of which come from broken homes where parents earn meagre incomes. To support such families, the school has offered employment opportunities, such as cultivating vegetables on unused land or providing funds to cover educational expenses.

Unicef Thailand recently highlighted a study on youths “not in education, employment or training (Neet)”, which found that 70% of students who drop out have no plans for furthering their education. Data from the Equitable Education Fund (EEF) additionally reveal that over 800,000 of Thailand’s 7 million public and private school students come from very poor families. This puts them at risk of dropping out of school.

Some factors preventing students from accessing education include lack of clean water, electricity, transportation, or internet access. Additionally, while Thailand’s 15-year compulsory education programme claims to be free of charge, extra costs for application and admission fees, uniforms, and stationery can deter low-income families from enrolling their children.

Kraiyos Patrawart, EEF managing director, believes that a more lenient and decentralised education system can help prevent students from dropping out. He suggests reducing the number of uniforms and allowing schools to fundraise for students from low-income families. Moreover, granting more autonomy to local authorities could help in addressing the unique challenges faced by different regions, ultimately reducing inequality within the education system.

The EEF has proposed three policies for the next government: providing free education from kindergarten to Grade 12, encouraging leniency in schools and assistance within the system, and decentralising education. Kraiyos also recommends offering tax exemptions to companies sponsoring scholarships for students from low-income families.

Even though Thai education programme is mandated to be free, families still have to pay for things like student uniforms. In related news, a Thai kindergarten has been criticised online for making students wear 4 different uniforms, including military uniform. Parents were informed by the public school in Kanchanaburi that they must buy the new uniforms, despite the fact the cost of living is high right now. Click HERE to find out more.

Thailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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