Name of organization: Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities Centre (DEPDC)
Title of project: Half-Day School
1.1 Project Background and Justification
The Half Day School, founded in 1996, provides a free primary school (K-6) education and support for children who are at risk of being abused or forced into commercial sex or exploitative labor. The Half Day School (HDS) is composed of children from surrounding Patak village, other neighboring villages in Mae Sai District, and from border communities in Burma/Myanmar.
Because of the Half Day School, children who would otherwise lack the opportunity for an education receive alternative primary education, health education, vocational training and, furthermore, learn about personal development and morality. The students are thus empowered with the necessary skills, both academic and social, for them to become positive contributors to their communities.
Without the Half Day School, many children would be left to fend for themselves at home or to accompany their parents to work as laborers, where they might be vulnerable to agents recruiting sex workers. Not only does going to school provide them with an education and an opportunity to build a social network, it provides them with the opportunity to play games, join sports teams, and make friends—an opportunity to enjoy their childhood.
Student numbers by background
Tai Yai (Shan)
% of total
There are many migrant and hill-tribe groups residing in Northern Thailand, especially along the Thailand-Myanmar border. Historically, many hill-tribes originate from Myanmar and China, yet each has its own unique culture, customs, language, and way of life. Additionally, some of the children at the school have migrated with their parents from Myanmar, moving to Thailand in search of a better life; others were born in Thailand. However, due to their ethnic minority status, they are not recognized as Thai citizens and do not possess official documents (birth certificates, ID cards). Thus, securing their rights to education, health care, land tenure and formal work opportunities can be very difficult.
These children are particularly susceptible for trafficking into child labor or commercial sex work. The Half Day School plays a valuable role, in acting as a safe haven for these vulnerable children and in providing the necessary life skills children need to become healthy and well-adjusted individuals.
1.2 Environmental Situation
In 2009, several events impacted the social and economic environment surrounding HDS and its target communities. In Myanmar, armed conflict between the state military and the militias of various ethnic minorities has intensified from recent years. Accordingly, migration has increased, too, as a result of political and economic conditions. In Lao PDR, the planned construction of a bridge between Thailand and Lao PDR will have a strong impact on the area. Vulnerable groups in this area will be particularly affected by the bridge, with an increase in migration, tourism, and human trafficking in the area.
Within Thailand, the plight of stateless children was brought to national attention by the story of Mong Thongdee, a 12-year-old boy from Chiang Mai. Mong won a national paper airplane competition which qualified him to represent Thailand at the international level. However, as the son of Burmese migrants, he was not granted Thai citizenship despite being born here. Initially, he was denied the necessary travel document to attend the international competition in Japan. Finally, with national media coverage of Mong’s story, a public outcry resulted in a travel document being issued at the last minute. After earning first and third place medals in Japan, Mong was welcomed as a hero upon his return to Thailand.
2. Project Activities
2.1 Academic Activities
Academic activities are covered during morning classes five days a week, Monday to Friday from 09.00am to 12.00pm. The curriculum is modeled after the Thai government curriculum to encourage government schools to accept HDS students and graduates, but is also adapted to meet the specialized needs of vulnerable, at-risk groups. Unlike traditional Thai schools, HDS classes are not based primarily on rote memorization. HDS teachers incorporate activities, workshops, and games into the classroom to ensure understanding of the material.
Kindergarten- Levels 1 and 2
There are currently 49 students in kindergarten. In the mornings, they learn basic Thai, English, mathematics, and science in preparation for future study. In the afternoons, they play sports, make handicrafts, listen to music, and create art. They also learn life skills; for example, about personal hygiene, they learn to brush their teeth and wash their clothes.
Elementary - Grades 1 through 6
There are 86 students in grades one through six. In the mornings they learn seven main academic subjects:
Mathematics – addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, time, weights and measures;
Thai language – alphabet, reading and writing words and sentences, writing short stories;
English language – alphabet, reading and writing words and sentences, grammar, greetings and conversation, cultural education;
Social Studies – local Thai and minority cultural education, Thai and local minority arts and cultural activities, Thai national holidays, Thai and minority guest speakers and village members from local communities;
Science and Technology – human physiology and development, astronomy, ecological and environmental issues;
Computer training – typing skills, Internet, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel; and
Health – healthy living, physical and emotional development, taking care of our bodies.
This is the first year that English language courses are taught to all students in grades one through six. The classes focus on listening, speaking, reading, writing, and conversation in the English language. English is offered in order to increase the students’ future job prospects and to maintain parity with government schools, which incorporate English as a regular part of the curriculum.
In the afternoons, the students attend workshops as part of the Vocational Program. The vocational program started in 2000 and is designed to train youth in a variety of practical skills such as cookery, carpentry, art, and agriculture. These workshops take place from 1pm – 3.30pm, Monday to Wednesday. Students rotate through the different shops each month with their grade level group. In this way, each student is able to learn about a variety of different skills throughout the school year.
For the 2009-2010 school year the four vocational ‘shops’ are:
Through receiving such training it is hoped that students’ future job prospects will be improved. Thus, they will be able to support themselves and generate a stable income without having to resort to commercial sex work and other forms of exploitation. In addition, mastering a skill boosts a child’s self-confidence and morale, and therefore, is conducive to starting a healthy adult life.
Craftsmanship and Carpentry
In the craftsmanship and carpentry vocational workshop, students learn construction and renovation. This is a newly added vocational program this year, due to the recognition that there is an increase of building in the area. As Chiang Rai Province continues to see new development, jobs for skilled craftsmen with carpentry training will be readily available. Additionally, many HDS graduates work in the field of construction, and are able to serve as trainers and mentors to the students in this workshop. Students learn about electricity, working with wood and iron, installing tiles and other useful tools they can use in their own house.
The home economics workshop includes skills such as cooking and making handicrafts. In the cooking and baking workshop the children learn how to make traditional food and drink using local ingredients. The students also learn responsibility for looking after supplies, tools, and materials required to make desserts, the history of Thai sweets and the cultural beliefs associated with them, and take pride in making something themselves to eat and share with their families.
The objective of the handicrafts program is to teach the children how to turn everyday things which might otherwise be thrown away into toys, decorations, or repair them for further use. They also learn painting, drawing, printing techniques, and flower arranging. The students have made things such as dolls from cloth scraps, crafts from flowers and natural materials and tissue, flower wreaths, and traditional decorations made from vegetables and fruits.
Art and Culture
The art shop teaches the students about the theory and practice of Thai art. They learn about the history and development of Thai art, the techniques involved in creating it, and its cultural significance. The students also learn about the differences between the arts and customs of the different tribes in the Chiang Rai area, and learn the cultural importance of their preservation. Additionally, the students practice making their own art. They draw pictures of nature, themselves, animals, and their cultures. They also practice drawing and painting from existing images, learn drawing and painting techniques and styles. The arts shop develops the creativity and artistic skills of the participants. They practice patience and attention to detail.
In the dance performance workshop, students learn traditional Thai dance. In the workshop, the history, tradition, and significance of each dance is discussed with the students. This gives the students the opportunity to practice and learn more about their culture. In addition, dancing helps to develop strength of body and mind and an appreciation for music and the arts.
2.3 Recreational and Cultural Activities
HDS students of all grades engage in recreational and cultural activities on Thursday and Friday afternoons from 1:00pm-3:30pm to fulfill a well-rounded and balanced curriculum.
On alternating Thursday afternoons, HDS students practice and play a variety of sports, including football, tennis, basketball, volleyball, table tennis, badminton, and takraw (a popular game in Thailand played with a ball of woven rattan strips). Participation in the sports program cultivates patience, hard work, and practice. The students learn about goal setting, good sportsmanship, teamwork, winning and losing, and sports safety. The sports program builds unity among the students, develops quality of life for body and mind, encourages students to use their free time for a good purpose, and prevents them from becoming involved with drugs and alcohol.
On alternating Thursday afternoons, HDS students participate in Scouts Training. Boys and girls from throughout Thailand and the world are involved in Scouting activities which stress love of nature, respect for self and others, and responsible citizenship. Scouting is a very important activity in Thailand, and Scouts Training is a mandatory activity in Thai government schools. HDS teachers believe that from taking part in Scouts Training, students will learn more patience, kindness, duty to family and community, and self-respect.
Life Skills Training
On Friday afternoons, HDS students take part in age-appropriate life skills training on topics that will improve their knowledge and quality of life. The content of the life skills training ranges from practical knowledge about personal hygiene, cooking, and cleaning, to awareness of issues of child labor, trafficking, HIV/AIDS, and drug and alcohol abuse prevention.
In 2009, HDS teachers and staff have continued to make home visits, an important activity of the school that connects the students’ school and home lives. The aim of these visits is to increase communication between the family and the school, and to learn more about the home situation of the student. Teachers visit each student’s home, screening for social problems and needs. When families have identified needs, such as food, medical care, and psychological counseling, HDS provides the family with these things. By improving the relationships between HDS teachers and families within the community, it is hoped that the families will be more willing to contact the HDS should any unforeseen problems occur.
3. Health Care
HDS students in all grades undergo a monthly health check of their weight, height, hair, teeth, and nails. Teachers and staff screen for health and hygiene issues, and provide them with free haircuts, nail trims, and anti-lice shampoo when needed. Each year, hospital nurses come to DEPDC to provide free vaccinations to HDS students. In 2009, students received the oral polio vaccine. Through these monthly health checks and annual vaccinations, HDS works to ensure proper preventative care and encourages students to take care of their bodies.
There is a First Aid kit at DEPDC, containing the basic equipment to treat grazes, cuts, minor burns and identify when a child has a fever. All HDS teachers are trained to administer basic First Aid. Staff members refer students to local doctors or take them to the hospital if the injuries/illness requires further medical attention.
Students receive a free vegetarian school lunch every day. Healthy afternoon snacks are provided for the children. These can include fruit, soybean milk and fresh milk from the dairy farm located next to DEPDC.
There are currently 135 students attending the school between the ages of 3 and 17. There are 2 kindergarten levels and 6 primary grades.
Student numbers by grade July – December 2009
Students’ living and family situations
Children’s living situation
Living with both parents
Living with mother only
Living with father only
Living with other relatives (uncles/aunts, siblings, cousins, grandparents)
Living at DEPDC
Both parents deceased
Parents live together
Half Day School also receives support from CO-OPERAID, Switzerland.
The Half Day School at DEPDC continues to provide a necessary service in the border communities near Mae Sai, Thailand. The HDS supplies an education and a safe environment for children who otherwise would not have the opportunity to go to school.