Author Archives: DEPDC/GMS
Since 1966, members of the United Nations Education, Science, and Culture Organization (UNESCO) have celebrated International Literacy Day on the 8th of September. In Thailand, the 8th of September is referred to as Non-Formal Education Day. On this day, public and private agencies organize a variety of activities to promote the benefits of learning and to underline the importance of literacy and life-long learning.
According to the World Bank, Thailand is classified as an upper-middle-income country, which is defined as a country with a Gross National Income per capita between $4,125 and $12,746. The country has achieved an overall adult literacy rate of 93.5% (2005 census) and a primary school net enrollment rate of 89.7%. These are similar to the average rates for countries with a comparable economic status. However, literacy skills and educational opportunities are still not distributed equally in Thailand.
Ethnic minority groups in Thailand often struggle to receive adequate education and, particularly in combination with statelessness and severe poverty, these children typically lack opportunities to enter and/or to stay in school. Until the late 1950s, school education in Northern Thailand was offered only in the river basins. There were no schools available in the mountainous regions where most ethnic minority peoples inhabit. During that time, the Border Patrol Police opened the first schools, thereafter offering education for people living in remote areas. In the beginning, these projects had to struggle with a great deal of problems – severe lack of qualified teachers, a lack of funding, and a curriculum only appropriate for Thai government schools, not for these non-formal schools that served minority children.
Throughout the late 1970s, the Hill Area Education Project (HAEP) organized the implementation of education and schooling to cover nearly all remote mountainous areas in northern Thailand. This was with cooperation and aid of Thailand’s Department of Public Welfare and the Department of Non-Formal Education. The Project offered at least 6 years of basic education for children and vocational training for adults. In 2000, this policy included 648 villages, where 1,236 teachers taught approximately 97,000 persons. The Project improved the education level of the ethnic minorities in northern Thailand and along the Myanmar border for the first time.
Today, the education level of ethnic minorities in Thailand is, unfortunately, still far below the country’s average, and not all children are able to attend school, especially those without citizenship or the means to pay for school fees and supplies. Thus, there is still much to be done, and the DEPDC / GMS is doing its part to make education available for these children in its Half Day School (HDS), Community Learning Center (CLC), Mekong Child Rights Protection (MCRP) Center, and Mekong Regional Indigenous Child Rights Home (MRICRH) projects.
This 2014-15 school year, the Half Day School (HDS) Program offers pre-school and primary level education to a total number of about 70 children from Pa Tak Village and surrounding villages in Mae Sai, and to children who cross the Thailand-Myanmar border every day to have a chance to receive free education. Nearly all of these children are ethnic minorities and often suffer from statelessness, and are therefore at a severe sociopolitical disadvantage. In the morning, the children study academic subjects, which are as closely aligned to the official national curriculum as possible. In the afternoon and on occasions during school breaks, Half Day School teachers provide students with vocational and life skills trainings.
The Community Learning Center (CLC) Project targets youth and young adults throughout villages in Mae Sai District. Currently, the CLC Project offers ongoing Thai and English language literacy training to improve young people’s ability to compete in the labor market and even to enter higher education. In addition to these regular courses, the Project sometimes holds special seminars and trainings in the following fields: Prevention of Human Trafficking and Child Labor, Drugs Prevention, Nationality and Immigration, Environmental Issues, HIV/AIDS Prevention, First Aid, Mental Health and Ideology, Thai and Hill Tribe Cultural Exchange, Traffic Rules and Regulations, Computer Training, Carpentry, Culinary Arts, Flower Arranging, Hygiene, Agriculture.
To learn more about and how to support these literacy development efforts, please visit our Community Learning Center project’s Global Giving donation page.
Gender equality is one of the core values that drives our organization’s mission to create opportunities for marginalized girls and women to obtain critical knowledge about their rights and viable academic and vocational skills. With this goal always in mind, we would like to now reflect on the progress that our projects and beneficiaries have made, and to share a tribute to what has been achieved in the efforts toward gender equality in the United States.
The 26th of August marked Women’s Equality Day in the United States. Near to this date, 96 years ago, the 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution was ratified, giving women the fundamental right to vote, and thusly bestowing a great blow upon the idea of viewing women as property rather than as human beings.
The White House Blog acknowledged that: “In the 94 years since the 19th Amendment was certified, women have made strides in every facet of American life, and we have learned that our country succeeds when women succeed.” The importance of passing down this wisdom to our sons and daughters is paramount if we want them to succeed in the future. We have the responsibility to make our daughters the best leaders, healers, players, and contributing members to society to continue the goals we strive to accomplish in our own lifetime.
The Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities Centre in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (DEPDC / GMS), as a community-based NGO, works to prevent child trafficking and exploitation by providing at-risk children with protection, education, and life-skills training. The DEPDC / GMS has spent the past 25 years striving to prevent abuse of human rights and exploitation through the lack of education, especially those of girls and women.
We succeed when our daughters succeed. Countless numbers of young women who have passed through our empowerment programs over the years were able to beat significant odds and become successful in their own right. In a bighearted, “pay it forward” sense of action, many of these former ‘daughters’ have returned to the organization to work in a variety of capacities; as project leaders, as teachers and mentors of students at the Half Day School (HDS), as youth volunteers at our safe shelter sites, and as role models for the next generations of at-risk children. Some of these courageous women have even gone forward to establish their own anti-trafficking projects and programs in Thailand and throughout the Greater Mekong Sub-region.
So, we here at the DEPDC/GMS salute the United States and President Obama’s efforts to highlight women’s ongoing struggles. We are proud to recall the numerous accomplishments of our own efforts to better the lives and future of women here in Thailand. To help support our efforts, you can follow this link to learn more about our current projects and to contribute to their ongoing success.
Thailand celebrated its annual National Science Day on 18th August to commemorate the prediction and observation of a solar eclipse on 18th August 1868 by His Majesty King Mongkut (1804-1868). This year’s National Science Day theme was: ‘Inspire innovative ideas for life development through science and technology.’
Schools throughout Thailand celebrated this day with special activities for students that fell under this theme. Our Half Day School was no exception!
Half Day School teachers organized special activities for the day. In previous years, we celebrated by going on a field trip to Chiang Rai Rajabhat University or to Mae Fah Luang University in Chiang Rai Province. This year, however, offered a special opportunity to our students throughout the week following National Science Day.
A local secondary school, Mae Sai Prasitsart School, organized an academic competition on 21st and 22nd August. Secondary students from all over Chiang Rai Province and adjacent provinces participated in the competition, which included subjects like health, chemistry, mathematics, nutrition, Thai language, and foreign languages. About 40 of our HDS students from Grade 1 through 5 went to watch the event on the first day. Our students also got to see some exhibitions that had been set up especially for the event! After an interesting day full of information, our students ended it by spending some time exercising at a nearby fitness park before they returned to the Half Day School.
If you would like to find out more about how to support our Half Day School program’s activities, its Global Giving fundraising page offers background information on the Program and how donations can be used. Many thanks for your keen interest and kind support!
Mekong Child Rights Protection Center: Girls Shelter & Education Program
Chiang Khong District, Chiang Rai Province, Northern Thailand
The Mekong Child Rights Protection Center (MCRP) Program was established by DEPDC / GMS in 2006 as a shelter home and education support program that aims to protect and prevent at-risk adolescent girls from being exploited and trafficked through a highly traversed border area in Northern Thailand. Currently, 15 girls receive shelter protection, government school education, vocational and life skills development training, nutritious homemade meals, and family outreach services.
Why is the MCRP Center located in Chiang Khong District?
Chiang Khong District is located along a Thai-Lao border crossing in the heart of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS). This area of northern Thailand is highly traversed by human traffickers, both because of several border crossings with Myanmar and Laos, and because of the vulnerable populations of ethnic minority and stateless people who reside there. Multiple sociocultural, familial, and personal factors place children and youth at very high risk of labor exploitation, especially trafficking into the commercial sex industry.
How does the Program work?
This MCRP Center provides room and board, basic necessities and medical care, scholarships for local government school education, school supplies, transportation to and from school, and life skills and vocational training to its female residents through the 9th grade. The program also provides partial aid for local government school education and health care related costs and family-based support services to 20 non-resident girls and boys from the communities surrounding the Center site.
Each day these children are under the care of the Program is another day that they are safe, healthy, cared for, and able to live more hopeful lives. Upon completion of the Program, the girls will take with them critical vocational and life skills, formal school education, human rights awareness, leadership skills, and the belief that their lives are valuable. These children represent the opportunity to not only escape from risk and danger, but to reach their human potential.
Find out how to directly support the Mekong Child Rights Protection Center through its Global Giving donation page, and learn more from quarterly updates and see photos of activities here.
July 30th marked the first United Nations (UN) World Day against Trafficking in Persons. The day brought attention to the epidemic of human trafficking and modern slavery that is present in every country. Countries participate by being a point of origin, transit, and/or destination. Human trafficking is a profitable, estimated $150 billion per year industry according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). The ILO also estimates that up to 21 million people are victims of domestic and international trafficking.
Human trafficking can take the form of coercion or deception of people into exploitation within the industries of commercial sex and fishing, organ-selling, factory or farm work, domestic service, and construction. Commercial sex trafficking and domestic service are the two most common types of trafficking. Men, women, boys, and girls can all be victims of trafficking. Gathering accurate information about human trafficking is made difficult since it is largely an underground trade and a highly sophisticated one at that.
To combat this problem, the international community has invested more than $1.2 billion in aid. More than 400 organizations world-wide – including our non-governmental organization, DEPDC / GMS – have used the funds to help those at risk of or victimized by human trafficking and to bring awareness to the problem at hand. On July 30, 2010, the UN adopted the Global Plan of Action against Trafficking Persons. This is the first ever international document directed at bringing awareness and fighting human trafficking. The UN has decided to further bring awareness to human trafficking by starting the #igivehope campaign. You can follow this link to read more about how you can participate and help end modern day slavery: http://www.unodc.org/endht/
Keep tabs on our official blog here for further information and updates on what we at DEPDC / GMS are doing to prevent and protect children from trafficking in Northern Thailand. Find out more from our July 2014 Newsletter and contribute directly through volunteer service or a donation. We sincerely appreciate your kind interest and compassionate support.
At the Half Day School, we believe in the importance of a holistic education. It is especially important for our students to learn vocational skills, train in human rights, and develop community awareness alongside their academic subjects. One key factor of this is going out into the community to learn about its history and the issues that it faces. Recently, many our students participated in a trek to Wat Phra That Doi Tung where students spent the day learning about different communities as well as their own.
Wat Phra That Doi Tung is a wat (temple) that sits on top of Doi Tung, or Mount Tung, which is the tallest mountain in Chiang Rai Province. The temple sits at approximately 1,400 meters above sea level and the journey to the entrance is steep and rigorous. Wat Phra That Doi Tung was built in the 10th century and in the style of the Lanna kingdom with two golden stupas, one of which is said to contain the left collarbone of the Buddha. In combination with awe-inspiring architecture and stunning views of Thailand and Myanmar, this has made Wat Phra That Doi Tung a major draw for devout Buddhists and tourists alike.
The field trip began with an air of excitement as students piled into the school bus for what was certain to be an exciting change from the normal school day. Students laughed and chatted as the bus took sharp turns towards Doi Tung. There was a humming of anticipation throughout the short but winding bus ride to the point where everyone would begin the 2-kilometer trek.
After hopping off the bus, students and staff began the journey up the mountain road towards the temple. The misty weather was ideal for the trek as it kept everyone cool throughout the demanding hike. Students enjoyed the fresh air and the great exercise up the mountain! Once the students and teachers arrived to the temple, it was time for a lesson. Students broke off into groups based on grade and were assigned different types of communities to examine: family, their villages, Thailand, Asia, and the entire World Community. The focus of this project was the importance of human rights and environmental protection and how these themes are related to the health and well-being of all these communities.
Around noon, students were given a quick break from their studies to enjoy a delicious lunch with the special treat of rambutans, a red plum- sized fruit native to Southeast Asia. After lunch, all of the students played educational games together organized and led by Teacher Ming. The trip concluded with a lecture given by head teacher, Alinda Suya, and presentations of the students’ projects.
Finally, after a long day of hiking, learning, and games, it was time for the students to head back down the mountain. The bus ride to the students’ homes was significantly quieter, as happy but exhausted students were ready to relax. The next day would continue with presentations of the students’ projects and more discussion of human rights and community empowerment.
Every year, at schools across Thailand, a Wai Khru ceremony is held for students to show respect and gratitude to their teachers. The Wai is a Thai greeting that consists of a slight bow, with the palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion and Khru means teacher. According to this Theravada Buddhist tradition, students prepare flower arrangements as a symbol of gratitude toward their teachers for instructing them well in the past and to create good fortune for their future studies.
While the date of Wai Khru Day varies from school to school, the Wai Khru ceremony is typically held at the beginning of each academic year on a Thursday in June. Thursday is the chosen day for such a ceremony, since this day is considered auspicious for special events involving education. At our Half Day School in Mae Sai District, this year’s Wai Khru ceremony was held on Thursday, June 12th.
This year’s Wai Khru Day at the Half Day School was a joyous event. Wai Khru ceremony preparations began the day before, with students creating beautiful flower arrangements to present to their teachers. It is customary for students to present teachers with offerings of flowers, candles, and incense arranged on a phan (traditional Thai pedestalled trays). Students spent all day Wednesday practising the Wai Khru chant and crafting gorgeous arrangements into a variety of fun shapes including a turtle and a swan!
The day of the event began with the customary recitation of the Wai Khru chant, which expresses respect for and gratitude to the teachers, and asks for the teachers’ blessing of their studies, led by the school president. After the chant, representatives from each class presented teachers with the beautiful offerings that students had crafted the day before. Other students were then given the opportunity to offer small gifts of flowers and candles. After all the students had expressed their respect and gratitude to their teachers, the staff took time to recognize the hard work that the students put into their academic and vocational studies. Awards and Honours were given to students who have shown a strong work ethic and dedication to their studies.
The ceremony concluded with a speech given by Ms. Alinda Suya, Director of Projects, on the importance of respecting and honouring teachers. In her speech she advised students on the value of education and offered guidance. The festivities continued after the ceremony ended with a delicious and healthful lunch, followed by an afternoon filled with games!