‘My son often sneaked out of school to hide at his friends’ houses or somewhere else to avoid being found by his teachers. One of the teachers was once spending half a day waiting for him to come home to convince him not to skip classes. Yet, he didn’t like going to school because he couldn’t read or write. It was like this for over a year. My son was too stubborn and there was nothing I could do. I was really tired of this and worried about him’, Mue Dae, mother of Ta or Ta Wee, a sponsored child in World Vision Foundation of Thailand (WVFT)’s Child Sponsorship in Umphang Project, Tak province, talked about her son’s schooling problems.
Ms Supphakan Jantahwong, a teacher who teaches Thai language subject to Karen ethnic children at Ban Mae Klong Khi Border Patrol Police School, which is located in the Thai-Myanmar border in Umphang district, Tak province, shared the learning difficulties Ta experienced when he was in grade 3 to 4: ‘His academic performance was worrisome. His schooling outcome was poor in every class, especially in Thai language subject. That was why Ta repeated grade 3 twice. He was either constantly absent or hiding in the back of the class. Because his parents can’t read and write Thai well, nobody is able to help him do his homework’.
Repeating the same grade twice, Ta, at the age of 12, fell behind his peers in school.
With the commitment to improve the quality of life of children from ethnic groups and children with vulnerability and disabilities in order to equip them with educational opportunities and enable them to realise their full potential, WVFT’s Child Sponsorship Programme in Umphang Project has supported, developed, and promoted a range of educational interventions to put an end to child literacy problems, starting from early childhood, by providing instructional materials to create readers (to become fluent in reading) and groom writers (to be able to write correctly) for the local schools. Children are encouraged to start reading and writing habits since their early years. The school has been supported to conduct 1-hour Thai language tutorial for more than 2 academic years, which has been attended daily by Ta and his peers with poor grades and literacy problems.
Moreover, Umphang Project has organised the Student Peer Teaching Camp by encouraging the older students with outstanding academic performance and leadership and self-exertion development skills to enhance the younger kids’ Thai language skills at schools in Umphang district. Having lots of fun with learning through a variety of activities led by the older youth, such as playing games and singing songs, children have gained a better understanding about Thai language and improved their reading and writing skills. Consequently, students’ schooling performance improved overall. Likewise, Ta’s academic achievement has gotten better; he got a 2.53 GPA by the time he was in grade 4.
Ms Supphakan mentioned the changes after Ta, as well as other academically challenged students, attended the tutorial that builds strong reading and writing foundation to enhance learning skills for children in this remote area: ‘After one year of the extra tutorial provided to Ta and his friends with poor GPAs, the students have gained good academic foundation. The activity ended illiteracy among children’.
Mue Dae, Ta’s mother, added, ‘When he was in grade 3, he always complained that school was boring, and studying was dull. But after having attended the after-school Thai language tutorial and joined the Student Peer Teaching Camp, he seems very happy. After school, he’d always tell me what he’s learnt for the day. He loves going to school and his grades have much improved. Despite being once a school skipper, now he sits happily in the front row of the classroom. I’m no longer miserable but really relieved that his studying has improved. He is my oldest child. I’d like him to have a higher education. Education will bring him a life better than his mother’s. I’d like to thank Ta’s sponsor for the constant support for him. Thanks to all World Vision staff, too, for always caring for Ta, my family, and me. Thank you to the teachers at Ta’s school for taking care of him and teaching him until his schooling outcome greatly improved’.
Ta, sitting by his mother, noted the reason why he loves going to school: ‘I can read and write better. Learning becomes much more fun when I can read and write. I’m really happy now. When I grow up, I want to be a soldier’, Ta said cheerfully with a big smile.
Today, Ta is in grade 5. Pol Cpl Phanida Waja-anukul WRTA, his homeroom teacher, confirmed that Thai language reading and writing skills demonstrated by Ta and his schoolmates have improved. Meanwhile, SM 3 Supphakan Jantahwong WRTA, his former homeroom teacher, said, ‘I’m so glad to see his improvement. On behalf of Ban Mae Klong Khi Border Patrol Police School, I thank the sponsors for supporting such a good project through WVFT, which has carried out various activities that benefit the school and community’.