Hi. Some life updates from my long hiatus from blogging-I’m nearly done with my second to last quarter of college (OMG), I applied to a couple of Masters programs in Global Health, and I’m somehow taking 6 classes this quarter. As busy as everything has been, 2017 has been off to a great start and there’s lots to look forward to!!
In the midst of all my Masters applications and global health courses, I’ve been reminded of a lot of my experiences abroad in Thailand. During our public health program at Thammasat University, I was paired up with four other classmates into a team that conducted fieldwork research on rights to education among Burmese children. I talked about it briefly in this post, but since it’s been a while, our research consisted of interviewing students, headmasters, parents and community leaders about access to education, socioeconomic/political barriers, and learning more about the challenges of living as a migrant in Thailand and its implications for their academic success.
Among all the corn fields is Sukhothai Learning Center.
Children lining up for daily roll call.
When you give a kid a camera…
During our first day, we got to ride around in the school bus they had so we could go pick up students from their homes.
There used to be a bridge here, but after a recent flood, the bridge was destroyed so this was what’s left.
Anjali, Vanessa and Linda did an activity with the third grade class where they drew their families.
Angie and I split up from our teammates to interview the math teacher. This teacher’s story as an undocumented migrant and his family life was so inspiring. Hearing about how he has such a great passion for the betterment of these children’s education was such an uplifting and empowering testimony in spite of all the harsh realities of living in such resource poor settings.
David, one of the representatives from the NGO Help Without Frontiers, served as our translator and team leads throughout our trip. Having lived in a refugee camp himself as a migrant from Myanmar, David gave us plenty of insight to the lives of migrant families and children who grow up along the border.
Angie and I had a chance to interview 4th graders along with the help of KiKi, who also graduated from a migrant learning center and now works with Help Without Frontiers.
We were all shocked to see that there were no tables or chairs in the classrooms, and all of the students were sprawled out on the floor. (Update: funding came through and they received tables and chairs!)
Kindergarteners-everyone loves their bubblegum!!
Many parents send their children to migrant learning centers because of the emphasis on Burmese, a language that is not taught in Thai public schools.
Time for Angkit-English class!
Since school lunches are not provided at this particular migrant learning center, students pack their own lunches-many students wake up early in the morning before their parents head off to work in order to help prepare lunches for themselves and their siblings.
Students lay out rice bags and tarps to do their work.
Everyone takes off shoes before entering the classroom!
Throughout our time at Sukhothai Learning Center, we observed how many children live miles away from the school and have to take a very far commute just to come to class. Since this MLC only has classes from K-4, many students have to attend another secondary school if they want to continue their education. For many of these families, distance to secondary schools is a major barrier to continuing their education after primary school.
During our interview with the 4th graders, we asked them what their plans after finishing primary school was. Although the majority had hoped to continue at secondary school, there was a also a good amount of students that were very unsure of whether or not they were staying in Thailand or going back to Myanmar. Others also talked about the fact that they would be dropping out of school upon finishing 4th grade in order to start working and help their parents earn an income to support the rest of the family.
For the remainder of our fieldwork research, we centered on the fact that there was a lack of awareness regarding scholarship opportunities and enrollment processes in Thai school (which all children have a right to attend regardless of documentation). In addition, we looked at how might we shift attitudes of the local community and parents towards education, so that these migrant children could have improved access to quality education.
If you’re interested in hearing a little more about our time in Thailand, you can check out a video that I put together for the Consortium of Global Health Conference.
Thanks for reading!