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UNESCO to raise funds for flooded Community Learning Centres in Ayutthaya

©UNESCO/I.Miyazawa

©UNESCO/N.Yamada

©UNESCO/N.Yamada

30.11.2011

Heavy rainfalls which started in May have caused major floods in many provinces in Thailand. A recent official announcement stated that 125 districts in 17 provinces remained flooded as of Sunday, 20 November 2011. An estimated five million people are affected with more than 600 people reported dead or missing.

Ayutthaya, host of UNESCO’s renown World Heritage site, is one of the worst affected provinces. 

Panich Sri-Ngam, Director of Muang District’s Office of Non-Formal and Informal Education (ONIE), Ayutthaya, said his Non-Formal and Informal Education Centre compound including a public library, several Community Learning Centre (CLC) buildings and a vocational education centre were severely damaged. Though all efforts were made to protect facilities, the water rose too quickly up to shoulder-level without any warning.

The scale of damages includes infrastructure such as broken glass, doors, and wall papers; and countless items such as library books and computers; furniture, and white boards; equipment for vocational training and income-generating activities; electricity circuit; and loss of learners’ records and certificates.

“Damage to electricity circuits is a great concern,” said one of the CLC staff as a large percentage of deaths reported in Thailand were due to electrocution. The fuse boxes of many buildings at the ONIE were under water for one and a half months. 

All staff at Muang District ONIE is now engaged in cleaning up the place. However, with the scale of damage caused by the flood, it is unknown when the public services will be re-opened.

Ayutthaya province has 209 CLCs that play a vital role in promoting lifelong learning in Thailand. CLC activities include literacy, skills training, income-generating activities, dissemination of news and information, library and computer services. 

The surroundings of Koh Rien CLC in Muang District in Ayutthaya look as if it was a giant lake. Farm land, houses, temples and schools, especially at the riverside of the road are still underwater up to waist height. Although the CLC was built on a high ground, it could not escape the damages and was flooded above knee-level. 

Some valuables including TV, computers and books were stored at higher-level; however, most of the furniture and a large amount of educational materials were damaged. The CLC staff has cleaned up the centre in the last few weeks; however, without necessary furniture and equipment, the centre remains closed to the public.

In Muang District alone, all 21 CLCs were flooded. They all lost most of their furniture, equipment and educational materials. Only the buildings are left intact after the long flooding period.

The needs assessment by the Thai government is underway and Mr Panich has already submitted estimation for his ONIE office. In the meantime, the office is receiving some emergency financial assistance from the Sub-District Administration Office and small donations from community members to restore the centre. 

However, it is unknown when and whether necessary funds will be made available to CLCs considering the scale of damage in the entire country. Cost of recovery for formal education system is expected to be large and there may only be a small allocation available for non-formal institutions. 

UNESCO Bangkok has been promoting CLCs as effective community-based non-formal education (NFE) delivery mechanisms since 1998. In 2003, the United Nations Literacy Decade (UNLD 2003 - 2012) highlighted the role of “community participation” as a key area of action and, thus, further encouraged the establishment of CLCs. 

“CLCs have been helping underprivileged people in the country. NFE and CLC programs in Thailand are one of the best models in Asia and the Pacific. Now we need to inform its situation to international communities and jointly support CLCs to recover from painful damages” said Ichiro Miyazawa, Programme Specialist, UNESCO Bangkok. 

Responding to the damage caused by the flood, UNESCO Bangkok provides support to Ayutthaya by raising funds to restore NFE and CLC centres by informing the international community and CLC associations about their difficult situation and to develop capacity of NFE and CLC staff on disaster risk reduction at the national scale.
 

By Nozomi Yamada, UNESCO Bangkok