By Annelie Hendriks; Photo’s by Manus Brinkman and
The Foundation for Education of Rural Children (FERC), Chiangmai and the
Samsara Foundation from the Netherlands have cooperated closely with the
Department of Education in Mae Sariang 250 km west from Chiangmai for more
than 2 years now.
children at Mae Um Pok primary school
Mae Sariang is a small town where the department is located. They are
responsible for 168 schools, of which 90% are located in the mountains—often
inaccessible in the rainy season. Mostly hill tribe children (Karen, Hmong)
attend those isolated small and poor schools.
Huge changes are taking place at most of these schools. As a result of the
extension of the compulsory school age from 12 to 16 years last year, this
school year is the first year of the secondary school level (Matayom grade
1) at many primary schools. The schools and villages that are too isolated
have to send their children to 14 bigger schools in the valley of Mae
Sariang. It is an enormous task. The location of the schools makes it a
difficult task to build the necessary classrooms. Teachers have to be
assigned, and trained to start this new level of education. A curriculum has
to be developed, books distributed, new end term examinations to be
organised and on and on.
canteen at Um Lo Sakaa
One year after the introduction of the new law, the influx of hill tribe
children is growing fast. The schools are confronted with many more hill
tribe children at their schools. Because of the distances between the
villages and the schools and the lack of roads and transportation the
schools don’t only need to provide education for them but also food and
accommodation. Most hill tribe children only go back to their homes twice a
year during the school holidays.
All schools have to prove that they are able to provide education at Matayom
level and that they can attract enough children to their school. Only then
will they receive more budget for facilities needed. Although this year you
can notice everywhere that the government is improving the roads, building
classrooms and transferring young teachers to the schools, the lack of many
school facilities is obvious and more needed than ever.
dormitory at vocational school.
120 schools do not have safe drinking water, 100 schools do not have enough
dormitories to let the children or teachers stay at the school, Most of the
schools do not have canteens and kitchen facilities. There are not enough
mattresses, blankets, medicines, books or stationary.
As a result, children stay in sheds made out of bamboo, leaking in the rainy
season or just sleep in a building under a roof but without walls, 70 to 200
children share one toilet; they cook on wood fires in a rusty pot in the
forest with children huddled around it. Not such a pleasant lunch or dinner
in the rainy or cold season. Often their situation and that of the very
dedicated teachers is more than appalling.
water installation at Sangwan Wittaya school
The teachers do what they can, they try to set up structures to protect the
children from the weather but without any cash money available to them it is
often a hard life for all of them.
It is very difficult for the Department of Education to cope with all the
issues at the same time. To provide education under normal circumstances for
those 168 schools in the mountains is already a difficult task but with all
the educational changes, the great influx of children, the flash floods, the
lack of funds, and only 3 vehicles available that can cope with the rainy
season roads, they are often desperate.
Educational facilities needed
During the last 2 years, while introducing new school facilities,
we visited many of the schools. We have a pretty clear picture about what
the schools need and have organised some questionnaires to map their needs
according to the facilities. The need is huge but you can do a lot for not
that much money. A mattresses sleeping 4 is 1,500 baht, a water installation
including sink, tank, water purification machine 20,000 baht, the
construction of a canteen or dormitory including all equipment and furniture
200,000 baht. Cement rainwater collecting tank or a facility with 4 toilets
45,000 baht. A scholarship for 3 years per child to go to the secondary
school including boarding 16,500 baht and to a Vocational School 30,000
toilet at Tong Sawat secondary school
All these projects are executed by volunteers of the foundations and built
by volunteers from the villages and schools involved. We have established
very good relationships with many of the school directors and the Department
of Education and we have started to raise more funds. As the Samsara
Foundation is only a small foundation, we approached other foundations for
funds, as lack of cash is the main problem at Mae Sariang schools.
Contribution from many sources
During the rainy season last year, Samsara Foundation and FERC
managed to get financial contributions from the following organisations; the
Foundations Samsara (The Netherlands), Wilde Ganzen (The Netherlands), De
Beer (The Netherlands), Dito (The Netherlands), Hansje Sillevis (The
Netherlands), The Watergraafmeerse Scholen Vereniging (The Netherlands), The
Royal Netherlands Embassy (Bangkok, Thailand), Give and Live (USA) and
private donors from USA, Canada, Great-Britain, The Netherlands, France,
Bangkok, Chiang Mai. In total we received almost 2 million baht.
dormitory at vocational school
All the projects mentioned below were executed in the dry season between the
1st of December 2005 and June 1st 2006.
In total at 40 schools we accomplished, including all necessary
equipment and furniture; 12 dormitories of which 10 were for students and 2
for teachers, 3 canteens, and furniture for 4 already existing canteens, 3
facilities with toilets, 22 water purification installations, 2 rainwater
collecting tanks. 10 schools received books for their libraries, 10 schools
received educational equipment for their handicapped children and 25
students received scholarships.
Last month every school organised the inaugurations of their facilities and
the some of the equipment was handed over to the Department of Education.
Thanks to the combined effort of many organisations and individuals we could
establish a much better school life for many hill tribe children in the
mountains of Mae Sariang. Ferc and Samsara Foundations would like to thanks
all involved organisations and individuals for their financial contributions
and volunteer work.
For more information: www. samsara-foundation.com and
www.thai-rural-education.org and www.giveandlive.org
Bernie Mc Kenzie Brown hands
over scholarships to Mr Kasem Dir Sang Wan Wittaya School and Mr Phisit,
Director, Department of Education
Handing over equipment for
With all the children in front
of new canteen Um lo Sakaa
Karen children at Baan Naa Doi
Villagers volunteer to build
New canteen at Um Lo Sakaa
New toilets at Tong Sawat