Free Schools training in Fang

Trip Start Jan 08, 2004
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Flag of Thailand  ,
Friday, October 19, 2007

"All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth." Aristotle



One of my jobs in recent times has been to chat with FreeSchools which is a Canadian charity. They have been operating in Fang, Chiang Mai province, Thailand for three years and have been using Western volunteers to manage their project. Their project is basically to bring education to kids who weren't getting education. More about that in a minute. For the last year an Australian guy, Ben, and his Dutch fiance, Jildou, have been the ones living in Fang and managing the project. But it is almost time for them to move on and that is why FreeSchools has been chatting to me - to get Mirror Foundation to take over the project.

All has progressed well with out negotiations and it is time to take Jadad, the Mirror Foundation staff member who will be the new project manager, to Fang to meet up with Ben and Jildou and learn about the project, meet the teachers, students, etc.

The project - FreeSchools runs 5 night schools. They are schools provided free totally by FreeSchools. A teacher's salary is provided and an area is found amongst a local community that can be used for a couple of hours 5 nights a week. The kids in these schools are all hill tribes; Shan, Lahu and Palong. When the project started almost none of these kids attended school. As time has moved on the Thai government has got more of these kids into school, but there is still a significant % that don't or can't go for a variety of reasons. So the education provided by FreeSchools is great for them. For the kids that do go to Thai government schools, the FreeSchools are just as important. They have limited Thai language ability, they have limited ability to study at home and their parents that may not have ever attended school have limited ability to help them. So by getting this extra help each week night, they have a much greater chance of achieving at school and staying in the education system for longer.

The other thing FreeSchools does in Fang is to pay for the salaries of 4 teachers in day care centres in Thai government schools. The Thai government then provides the rooms, lunch and milk for the kids. This too is important as it allows the kids to learn Thai language before reaching Primary school and it allows parents to deposit their kids somewhere safe and educational while they are at work. Most, but not all the kids in these are hill tribes from the groups mentioned above.

So anyway, Jadad, Thellie and I drove out to Fang and stayed in a nice hotel and visited all the schools and saw the teachers and kids. Again all is progressing well and Jadad will soon be ready to take over the project. He already has many ideas on how we can help. By getting Mirror Foundation involved we should be able to get donations of stationary, volunteer Thai teachers and the help of the Citizenship Project to the schools and villages amongst other things. So I am happy that my work so far has been worthwhile and will lead to some good results for a number of people.

In the photos attached you'll notice we also visited the Thai / Burma border which is close to where some of the FreeSchools. Many if not most of the kids involved are from Burma and have entered Thailand as unofficial refugees.







Other stuff - all is good with baby so far.

But Kanchana is due about the same time we'd be due to be moving to Chiang Rai. Not so good. We are still to come and find a house and a school for Vava and Alif. Added to that, the rules regarding teaching in Thailand have changed slightly. Although Kanchana will get her Master's degree this year and that will allow her to teach, if she studied one more year, she'd get the extra qualification that allows her to set up her own school. Hmmmm, so??????? Mirror Foundation has already been very patient with me by waiting for me for one year to come and live in Chiang Rai.
Another option that we have started to think about - maybe Kanchana and kids stay in Bangkok one more year and I spend the year travelling between Chiang Rai and Bangkok. Maybe with about 2 weeks in each place. That should give me enough time with family and enough time at work especially as a lot of work can be done on computer at home. It adds to our costs a bit, but not too much as I can rent a cheap apartment in Chiang Rai and travel relatively cheaply. But, it means we won't get the income from renting out the house in Bangkok and that is a significant lose. So??????
We might be able to manage it. But even if for a year we spend more than what we earn, it now just means we have to use up some savings, unlike before when it meant not eating, or not paying bills or potentially getting kicked out of home. So although now we have some money our financial problems haven't totally disappeared, their consequences have greatly changed.
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