La Salle in Thailand
La Salle Learning Center (commonly called: “The Bamboo School”) Nov 14, 2009
Moo 9 ,Tambol Nonglu, Ampoe Sangklaburi, Kanchanaburi province, Thailand
Map of surrounding countries of the Three Pagodas Pass.
In the month of August 2008, while working with the National Catholic Commission for Migrants Brother Victor Gil visited a school built with bamboo only. This school is located about 2 km from the Burmese border, West of Thailand. The area is known as “The Three Pagodas Pass”, on West side of Thailand in the province of Kanchanaburi, District of Sangklaburi. The distance from Bangkok is about 380 km and it takes 6 hours drive: the road is good, even though it has to go through a lot of hills. The scenery is beautiful.
Picture 1: The Bamboo school, August 2008
The school is located in a corner of big rubber plantation. Mrs. Wirawan that went visiting the families of the workers of the plantation saw that the children of the workers did not have a school to go to and tried to do some teaching in the open air under the trees. Later an organization said it would help her; so this organization put up the above “bamboo building” (picture 1) but then that organization disappeared; four other ladies joined Mrs. Wirawan Wisetsing in the work .The school is made of 4 classrooms, each classroom 4 mx3m (picture 2 ). It had about 80 students aged from 5-15. There are no toilets. (In the month of September 2 temporary toilets were built).
The kids come from different ethnic groups in the area: Thai, Burmese, Karen, Mon, so at home they speak their ethnic language (picture 9). In school they are taught in Thai by 5 the five Thai ladies.
The Three Pagodas Pass is historically important as being the road followed by the Burmese in their invasions of Thailand. It is also near the (death-) railway built by the Japanese during the Second World War to go from Bangkok to Yangon. More than 100,000 people died building the rail-way most of them Asians.
Picture 2: A classroom
There are many children in her classroom together. Children were waiting in the hope that this teacher to educate us.
Picture 3: Visiting the families
The students are divided into groups more or less by age even though the content of the syllabus is the same (older kids can learn faster). For most of the kids (even those who are 14-15 years old) this is their first year of schooling. The kids use no books. Each student has an exercise book where they do all their exercises of Thai language and mathematics.
There are no benches (desks) or chairs ( picture 4) as the kids sit and write on the floor made of bamboo.
Some of the students live on the Thai side of the border while a certain number cross the border from the Burmese, Karen or Mon areas of Burma and come to study in this school, as they have no schools in their area.
The border between Thailand and Burma at “The Three Pagodas Pass” could be a tourist area and trading center but the border has been closed for the last two years due to difficulties between the Thai and Burmese military. So there is little economic activity in this area besides the rubber plantations.
I have learned that the workers in the rubber plantation area paid 1,500 baht/month i.e. US$ 50 /month. They live in accommodation provided by the rubber factory (picture 3)
Picture 4: Doing a simple dictation
The La Salle Brothers of the delegation were informed of the situation. The Delegation Council decided to adopt this school in stages and turn it inot a lasallian school.
Why the Bamboo School?
We hope to receive trust and support from the people who believe that
no child should be left behind.
We would like:
- - To turn the original four bamboo-built classrooms into decent, safe class-rooms in sufficient number according to the number of children.
- - To increase the number and quality of the teachers, from a group of good-will ladies to qualified and dedicated Lasallian educators.
- - Have children sitting in chairs, writing in desks instead of bending their backs continually to write on the floor.
- - Provide the basic needs for health and hygiene.
- - Turn the dry scorched recreation grounds into a green, resting area, where children can play happily.
- - From children without hope, our children will dare to look at the future with confidence.
We look at the future the Bamboo School as a well-established school in the region with standards recognized by the Ministry of Education. This will require a lot of faith and devotedness not only from the teachers of the school and the La Salle Brothers but also from all the good-wishers, supporters and benefactors, be they individuals or organizations, that will help us achieve our dreams. With your collaboration this can be achieved in a short time.
We believe that by that providing basic education to these children, coming from different ethnic groups along the Burmese-Thai border, we will help them integrate into Thai society. They will not be a burden to Thai society; they are capable of living happily in Thailand and contribute to the well-being of Thai people. Even though not all the students of the Bamboo School were born in Thailand, since they live in Thailand, it is our duty to help them all get the education that will enable them to help Thailand prosper. This is very much in accordance with the spirit of Saint John Baptist de la Salle ofreaching out and touching hearts.
Commitment of the Brothers
As a first stage of commitment: The Brothers assumed the responsibility from September 2008 until December 2008.
The Brothers go to visit the school at least once a month. Pay each teacher US $100/month; help with the midday meal with US $80/month; provide educational materials; build 2 toilets; provide guidance for the teachers.
The second stage will from January 2009- December 2009: Details of the commitment were discussed in the Delegation Council meeting in April 2009. The main items of the commitment: ( In The month of June the following items have been completed):
- Build a multi-purpose room: cost 270,00 baht ( 1 US $= 35.50 baht): Completed May 2009 with the Help of Lasallian Foundation, Australia and Brother Chayaporn (picture 6)
- Provide better salaries for the teachers
- Provide educational materials ( books and exercise books)
- Build 3 new toilets
- Help with the midday meal
- Help with a daily glass of milk
- Provide training for the teachers
- Organize and develop a suitable syllabus
- Buy a school vehicle: 350,000 baht
- Build 2 new class-rooms(huts) for the pre-school children.
- Cement the area in front of the classes
- Build temporary dining-room
- take in 2 new teachers
The third stage of the commitment: from 2010: decided by the Council of the Brothers in the month of April 2009.It is the responsibility of the Brothers of Thailand and the new District. The following projects have been agreed “in principle”:
-Build eight class-rooms and furnish them
-Build water-tank for 100 cubic meters of water
- Bring electricity to the school.
-Build 12 toilets
-Build dining room
-Transfer the ownership of the land to La Salle Foundation
-Obtain license for running the school as a gratuitous school.
Fourth stage: 2011-12: Build a community house and establish a Lasallian Community.
Picture 5: Brother Victor speaking to some of the kids.
Update: May 22, 2009
In the Bamboo School the new school year 2009 (B.E. 2552) started on May 4. The number of students has gone from 85 to 194. They are divided into seven class-rooms with seven teachers of which 3 have a degree in education.
-We have planted 188 trees in the property,
-built a multi-purpose concrete room 8m * 8m (see picture 6);
-built two bamboo class-rooms for the 3-6 years-old, (picture 7);
-built a bamboo dining area;
-built three new toilets;
-hired a cook and assistant cook;
-built a mush-room shed for growing mush-rooms;
-built a drinking-water area and dining room (picture 8);
-started providing a glass of milk to each student during the morning break;
-cemented 80 square meters;
-distributed a new blue shirt to each student;
-We have hired 2 new qualified teachers making a total of 7 teachers;
-hired a night keeper;
-A covered pick-up has been bought as a school bus and for the transportation of teachers who have to travel 25 kilometers to come to school.
The youngest student is three years old and the oldest is seventeen.
Picture 6: Multi-purpose room (Thanks to Lasallian Foundation, Australia)
Picture 7: Pre-school class-room
Picture 8. Dining-room
Picture 9. Students in their national costumes
Picture 10: Planting 200 trees with the soldiers.
Update June 22, 2009 : Number of students: 240. Number of classes: 7. Number of teachers: 7. The Kindergarten class has 73 students. It has been split into 2 classes (building another bamboo hut). Three new toilets have been built (now total 5). The area in front of the classes has been cemented. The pick-up is used to bring the teachers from Sangklaburi and school transportation.
Picture 11. Ceremony of paying homage to the teacher, June 2009
Picture 12. Some kids with their new shirts
Picture 13: huts where of some of our students live.
Update July 7, 2009
1. Desks have been received donated by COERR and by Serm Panya School. Army lorries were used to transport the desks from Serm Panya school. They are stored in the Rubber Factory.
2. A new bamboo class-room has been built to accommodate the senior students. They use some of the newly donated desks.
3. A bamboo library is being built. t should be ready to be used in a few days.
4. Evening classes for adults have been started. About 40 students aged from 12- 50 attend classes five days a week from 18.30 to 20.30 hrs. The students are happy with the donated COERR desks.
5. The personnel employed has been increased by one person: a driver. He picks up the students in the morning and sends them back in the evening; he takes sick students to the Government Health Centre, the Hospital in Sangklaburi, does errands for the school and looks after the cleanliness of the property.
6. Total people employed: 7 teachers, 2 cooks, one keeper of the place, and one driver.
7. A grass-cutting machine has been bought. The grass is being cut for the first time in front and inside the school. The trees planted in may begin to look nice.
8. A soy bean crusher has been bought to make soy milk for the students. They will have watered condensed –milk twice a week and soy bean milk 3 times a week.
9. The budget for the daily meal has been increased from 900 baht ( about 4 baht per student) to 1100 ( about 5 baht per student).
10. Progress has been made on the transfer of ownership of the land to the La Salle Foundation and on obtaining the house registration document.
11. Some text-books (Thai language, mathematics and English) have been distributed to the students.
12. About 15 students were taken to the Government Health Center because they had skin diseases.
13. A new mushroom shed has been built.
14. Desks have been received donated by COERR and by Serm Panya School. Army lorries were used to transport the desks from Serm Panya school. They are stored in the Rubber Factory.
15. A new bamboo class-room has been built to accommodate the senior students. They use some of the newly donated desks.
16. A bamboo library is being built. t should be ready to be used in a few days.
17. Evening classes for adults have been started. About 40 students aged from 12- 50 attend classes five days a week from 18.30 to 20.30 hrs. The students are happy with the donated COERR desks.
18. The personnel employed has been increased by one person: a driver. He picks up the students in the morning and sends them back in the evening; he takes sick students to the Government Health Centre, the Hospital in Sangklaburi, does errands for the school and looks after the cleanliness of the property.
19. Total people employed: 7 teachers, 2 cooks, one keeper of the place, and one driver.
20. A grass-cutting machine has been bought. The grass is being cut for the first time in front and inside the school. The trees planted in may begin to look nice.
21. A soy bean crusher has been bought to make soy milk for the students. They will have watered condensed –milk twice a week and soy bean milk 3 times a week.
22. The budget for the daily meal has been increased from 900 baht ( about 4 baht per student) to 1100 ( about 5 baht per student).
23. Progress has been made on the transfer of ownership of the land to the La Salle Foundation and on obtaining the house registration document.
24. Some text-books (Thai language, mathematics and English) have been distributed to the students.
25. About 15 students were taken to the Government Health Center because they had skin diseases.
26.A new mushroom shed has been built
Update August 25, 2009
Mother’s day was celebrated for the first time with the presence of many parents. Soldiers and civil authorities also participated. See Picture 14. The day before Mother’s day about 70 boys were taken to the barber’s for a hair-cut.
The class-rooms have been extended so that the students have more space to move.
The library was officially opened during mother’s day celebrations August 11.(Picture 15)
Two children (see house picture 15) came back to school after being treated for malaria in the brain.
The senior kids took part in a trees planting exercise in the area near the lake under the guidance of the headman and the soldiers.
After cutting the grass and cleaning the weeds around the trees, the trees look quite nice.The property has been extended from 3 rai to 9 rai with the students beginning to plant vegetables in the new area. Also we have joined the project for planting the flower dok dao ruang.
We have received 40 second-hand computers from Brother Peter Boonchert, director of La Salle Bangkok. Three teachers have already started practicing with the computers.
The night school is doing well: it is well attended, clean and orderly. The students are making great progress in the writing and reading of Thai. We are in the process of becoming attached to Song Kalia Government school as class-rooms branch of Song Kalia Government School.
Picture 14: Mother’s day 2009
Picture 15: The library, August 2009
Update November 14, 2009
Picture 15. Isuzu club built dining-room
In October about 60 members of the Isuzu Club contributed to the building of the new dining-room ( picture 15).
The number of teachers is now 10 as we have started using formally the government syllabus in full.
Picture 16. House for the property and school keeper.
A house has been built for the family of the school and property keeper( picture 16).
Water tanks construction is nearly finished ( picture 17), paid by Mrs. Thanee
Eqipment for the kindergarten play-ground was given by Mrs. Thanee(picture 18)
Picture 17. Water tanks
Picture 18. New playing-ground.
Classrooms: An Eight-classroom building will have to be built as soon as possible to replace the existing bamboo classrooms. Estimated cost 2.5-3.0 million baht.
Transformer and electricity: 200,000 baht
Happy Birthday To You