Saturday, November 04, 2006

Getting a clue!

Thousands of kids in this area were born in Burma or in remote areas of Thailand so they can not prove they should have Thai nationality (these are stateless children). They are often unable to go to public school even though the law requires them to go because the schools are over crowded and they do not have sufficient resources for the children they are responsible for already. Consequently, barriers are erected to keep the stateless or Burmese children out of school.

There are many indendent schools, some are ok some are terrible, that try to help with these children get an education. Children who attend these schools do not get a paper from the government saying they have completed a grade, so if they go into the public school, they must start over in grade 1. There is a law that anyone who attends a registered school here for 7 years is eligible to get Thai citizenship. Going to these independent schools provides the children with some education, but does not qualify them for Thai citizenship.

In a perfect world there would be enough money for all the children to attend public school or a registered school and, ultimately, get Thai citizenship (if that is what they want). Of course, this is not a perfect world especially if you are poor and born in the wrong place.

Everyone wants to do something because these uneducated children grow into uneducated adults who have no opportunities because they do not have Thai citizenship. This creates a permanent underclass that is not healthy for any country.

I had a meeting with a headmaster on Thursday that was enlightening. He supports some independent schools with textbooks and teachers who visit the schools on a periodic basis. He does not need to build classrooms and hire additional teachers. Kids go to grades 1 to 3 in the little independent school (more like a bamboo hut with bamboo desks and a chaulkboard) and go to grades 4 and up at his school.
Many more children are in these first three grades because of this. Generally, if children stay in one place for three years, they are staying in place for a lifetime.

This works for him because he can comply with the law, help the children (which he seemed sincere about) and not adding any significant expenses for new classrooms and teachers. An additional benefit for him (which he did not say) is he does not spend money on the transcient children (some follow their families back and forth over the border).

I went to the board of education on Friday (3 + hours each way on a bus...ugh) and talked to them about how I could get it applied elsewhere. It is possible.

Now I am getting a clue...WorldVision will support the families, public schools and satelitte schools provide the education, the educated children are able to get Thai Citizenship (if they want it which most do).
It is possible all it takes is some persuasion. This, of course, is true until the new government changes the rules, which they certainly will.

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