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Indonesia joins project under patronage of Thai Princess for improving children’s quality of life

©UNESCO/R.Manowalailao

12.06.2012

Bangkok, 12 June 2012 – “An empty stomach will not listen to anything”. This saying embodies the idea behind the initiative of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand to improve children’s health for better learning.

In over 700 schools in border and remote villages of Thailand, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn introduced under her own initiative the ‘Agriculture for School Lunch’ project to thousands of Thai students, which has been running for more than 30 years.  The purpose is to improve children’s health and nutrition so that they can fully concentrate on their studies. The project has demonstrated sound results, as evidenced by thousands of children whose nutrition and health status has improved.  The children have stayed in school, and many have continued with higher education.  
  
“Children’s health is not just about weight or nutrient intake. Health is an academic issue for children. That’s why this project highlights the critical role that health plays in academic performance and closing the achievement gap,” said Abdul Hakeem, Asia-Pacific Programme of Education for All Advisor and Coordinator at UNESCO Bangkok. 

At Na Yao Border Patrol Police School and Mattayom Phrahachathan Na Yao School in Chachoengsao province, about 100 kilometres from the Thai border to Cambodia, delegates from Indonesia recently visited Her Royal Highness’s Agriculture for School Lunch project. Students showed delegates their school farms and cooperative promotion activities. As part of the project, students grow vegetables and mushroom, and raise chicken, ducks, wild pigs, fish and frogs. The products are used for students’ school lunches and sold to local communities. 

In Her Royal Highness’s capacity as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the Empowerment of Minority Children through Education and through the Preservation of their Intangible Cultural Heritage, the project has been expanded to Asia-Pacific countries, entitled “Improving the Quality of Life for Children and Youth”. UNESCO has had the honour of cooperating closely with Her Royal Highness’ Office since 2006 in implementing the project in Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam, with the strong support of the National Commissions for UNESCO and Ministries of Education. To date, the project operates in 21 schools in these three countries. 

Using a school-based approach to implementation, the project has focused on improving the nutrition and health of school children with a view to improving their educational outcomes and overall well-being.  Project activities have included the development of school gardens, introduction of school lunch programmes, and health monitoring. All activities are embedded in the local culture. The project encourages schools to become a hub in the community, with activities supported by parents and local officials, and the knowledge generated from school-based activities going home with children to their families.

Indonesia is a new member of this initiative. Recently, 20 headmasters and teachers from seven selected schools and senior government officers from Indonesia made a first visit to Thailand to familiarize themselves with the methods used in managing this collaborative project and discuss how to apply these experiences and maximize collaboration. The seven schools are from Bogor District of West Java province in Indonesia, approximately 60 km from Jakarta. All schools are elementary or lower secondary schools with 200-400 students and with land that can be used for the project’s agricultural activities. Most of the students’ parents are farmers. 

“This project is not only good for education, but strengthens the bonds between Thai, Asia-Pacific and Indonesian families” said Arief Rachman, Executive Chairman, National Commissions for UNESCO Indonesia.  “Before the participating schools came to Thailand, they didn’t know each other, but they have now become one family because of this project.” 

When the Indonesian delegates return, they will develop a one-to-two year action plan to improve various aspects in food and nutrition, health, occupation, environment, local wisdom and culture for students in their respective schools. Her Royal Highness’ project will provide a budget for setting up project components upon request as well as providing technical assistance. In a later phase, Her Royal Highness will visit the participating schools. 

 

 

For more details, please contact Nantawan Hinds at UNESCO Bangkok: n.hinds@unesco.org or Rojana Manowalailao: r.manowalailao@unesco.org


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UNESCO Bangkok Press Release No.2012