Learning to build a better future

Children of migrant workers gather to learn basic Thai in a mobile classroom at a construction site in the Laksi area of the capital as part of a programme by the Foundation for the Better Life of Children. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)


While going to school is an unexciting ritual among many children, it is viewed as an extraordinary routine by those who see its true value.

Going to school can prevent human trafficking, physical assault and sexual abuse, says labour rights advocate Patima Tangpratyakun, pointing to several little-known educational benefits, which may not be familiar to Thai students who simply take education for granted as a passport to bright careers.

But for children of migrant workers in Thailand, studying not only gives them an opportunity to better themselves; it also makes them less prone to those forms of exploitation.

Equipped with better knowledge, these children will not be easily fooled or forced into such situations. They can apply what they learn to their daily lives, improving the way they live and, like Thai students, pave the way for better careers than those pursued by low-skilled labourers.

In contrast, if these kids fall victim to criminal gangs, it is an uphill task to heal their minds from the pain, said Ms Patima, who works with the Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation. The best thing, she said, is to prevent these problems.

Her foundation has saved about 400 foreign children from human trafficking and the sex trade and encouraged up to 13,000 youngsters to enter the Thai educational system, helping them attend classes from elementary school to universities.

Other non-governmental organisations like the Foundation for the Better Life of Children are also aware of the benefits of education. Its volunteers teach these kids in their neighbourhoods, mostly construction sites where their migrant parents work, as well as help them gain access to formal education.

"Student uniforms will serve as a shield for these children," said teacher Thongphun Buasi, or Khru Chiw (teacher Chiw) as she is often called by her students.

The uniforms imply they are being protected by education, which instills in them models of decent behaviour as well as enough know-how to allow them to stand on their feet and secure their lives.

Khru Chiw said she does not care if the children she is teaching are Thai or foreign because, in her view, all are the "future of Asean".

What Khru Chiw foresaw has begun to take shape. Two Myanmar students in Thailand are showing their studies will put them among a new generation of Southeast Asian people who use their knowledge to help develop the region.

Speaking to the Bangkok Post, Tin Tin, 21, and Ya Min Phyn, 23, say they look toward to their future, picturing how they can apply English and computer skills to their careers. The women have steered well clear of risks of exploitation since they decided to go to school several years ago.

Tin Tin's mother had wanted her daughter to help her on a shrimp farm rather than go to school.

But with relentless determination and help from the LPN, Tin Tin began her studies at a school in Samut Sakhon at the age of 9 and is now pursuing undergraduate studies at St Theresa International College in Nakhon Nayok.

Tin Tin said she plans to work for an international organisation to fulfill her dream of helping children of ethnic minority groups. Above all, she added: "I want them to receive an education" to help them avoid a tough life.

Ya Min Phyn shares that view. It is because of her knowledge of the Thai language acquired at school that landed her an administration job at a factory, she said.

Ya Min Phyn plans to return to Myanmar after graduating in business computing here. Myanmar's economy is growing so she wants to work as a coordinator between Thai and Myanmar businessmen.

"I understand Thai people and Thai culture," she said.

However, despite these benefits, the foundation finds it not easy to promote education among children of migrant workers.

Tin Tin needed her mother's permission before starting school and, in some cases, the foundation staff have had to spend up to a year persuading parents to allow their children to go to school.

Many migrant workers do not see why education is necessary and are worried about travel expenses if their children go to school, Ms Patima said.

Tin Tin and Ya Min Phyn have already proven that education does change lives. It has helped protect them and improved their lives, they said.

"Education builds opportunities in almost every aspect," Khru Chiw said.

"It also plays a key role in building a more livable world."


Origin: https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/1389330/learning-to-build-a-better-future

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