Follow Us:

It’s worth every second of this long-hour-drive over mountains and rivers

©UNESCO/I.Miyazawa

©UNESCO/I.Miyazawa

©UNESCO/I.Miyazawa

12.06.2013

In Thailand, one of the remotest community learning centres UNESCO Bangkok has supported is in mountainous Mae Sariang district of Mae Hong Son Province. Located near the Myanmar border, the community learning centre, or CLC in short, is in a village with only 350 residents mostly from the Karen tribe. Some of the villagers have Thai nationality, while a number of them are stateless. There are about 50 infants, school-aged children and young people attending this CLC for basic education and livelihood skills.

For remote villages of Mae Sariang district, there is no public transportation. Our journey to the village took five hours from the city centre in Mae Hong Son. The mountain roads were very rough and bumpy, often with steep slopes. We also needed to cross a few bridgeless rivers. In the dry season, it is relatively easy to cross the rivers despite the lack of bridges. However, during the rainy season, crossing the rivers becomes quite a challenge since the waters flow faster and deeper. 

When we arrived at the village, we were welcomed by the smiles of children and young people. The purpose of our trip was to observe the CLC in the village. CLC has a friendly-looking classroom that is well stocked with learning materials. The teachers’ effort and commitment to provide a good learning environment to the students were very apparent, and I felt a positive energy running inside the classroom and also outside in the village atmosphere.

We met a teacher and supporting staff that travel approximately 10 hours each time by a motorcycle to reach the CLC. They usually stay in the village for 25 days, take a break for a week and return to the village to teach again. 

I kept thinking about the extremely rough roads and rivers they had to cross.  According to the district education officer, these teachers always have to travel together because they need to carry a bike on their shoulders using two bamboo sticks to cross rivers.

What drives them to be so committed?

The teachers said that it is to see the smiles of the children and young people who eagerly wait for them and appreciate their hard work. This motivates them to endure the grueling journey.

They also mention the support and trust from the community members in the village as well as from the district education office as their driving force.  When trust and responsibility are given, teachers use their full potential to perform.  The secret of the world best education system in Finland is “Trust”.  There are many articles on this topic.

The district officer and the CLC teachers were trained through study visits organized by UNESCO Bangkok in 2011 and 2012. Last year, this CLC in Mae Sariang District received the best award in the ethnic hill tribe learning centre category by Office of the Non-Formal and Informal Education (ONIE), Ministry of Education

There are hundreds of thousands of out-of-school children in villages in the Northern provinces of Thailand like Mae Hong Son, Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. According to the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2012, there are 611,000 out-of-school children at the primary education level and 157,000 out-of-schools adolescents in 2009.

There is no doubt that we need to expand the programmes in cooperation with the local governments based on our success and lessons learnt.

 

By Ichiro Miyazawa, UNESCO Bangkok