Education for Refugees in Thailand
Located about fifty kilometers from Sangklaburi (in Kanchanburi Province, near the Thai/Myanmar border) lies a beautiful village called Huey Malai. I have lived in this village since May 2014. Huay Malai is home to mainly Karen hill tribe people. Over the years, many of the Karen people have been pushed into Thailand as a result of violence in Myanmar.
Located about fifty kilometers from Sangklaburi (in Kanchanburi Province, near the Thai/Myanmar border) lies a beautiful village called Huey Malai. I have lived in this village since May 2014. Huay Malai is home to mainly Karen hill tribe people. Over the years, many of the Karen people have been pushed into Thailand as a result of violence in Myanmar. Thousands of Karen people are now living in Thailand, often in refugee camps along the border. Dozens have fled to avoid killings, forced labor, rape, and other forms of conflicts with the Burmese government. It is estimated over 150,000 Karen people have fled to Thai refugee camps and now live in Thailand. While Karen people may be displaced, Huay Malai is one place they call home. Huay Malai is also home to Saha Christian Suksa School, part of the ministry of the Church of Christ in Thailand, which serves over six hundred young individuals in the area from kindergarten to sixth grade. The school faces challenges because many students reside in area homes together (their families cannot afford to care for them, their parents are in Myanmar, or they really are orphans), must be supported by NGO’s in order to attend school, and are not always Thai citizens. Nevertheless, school teachers and staff are committed to working to provide safe, loving, and enriching learning environments for all the students. Thai schools have a high reputation for giving students a well- rounded education (often more advanced than the educational systems of bordering countries) and educators and Karen people are proud to provide this to Karen children and youth. Students at Saha Christian Suksa School not only learn mathematics, history, Thai language, agriculture, health, sewing, physical education, and music, but they also benefit from having a Christian influence. They are taught not only about God’s love and care for them through songs, prayers, and relationships with others, but also grow from the encouragement they receive from peers and teachers to be the best that they can be every day!
In recent years English has become very important in Thai schools. In southern Asia, where every country speaks its own language, English has quickly become the universal language. Likewise, with the opening of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) projected in 2015, the people of Thailand face a greater pressure to learn English. Being able to understand and speak English provides individuals with more opportunities within and outside of their home country. English is still very new for many students in Huay Malai. For older students English is their fourth language, as they can already speak Karen, Thai, and Burmese, but most of the younger students can only speak Karen. As their teacher, I try to provide more hours per week for their English classes. With continued repetition of words and phrases and creative activities, the students’ English abilities are improving greatly. Educators here are excited to provide English to Karen students! Despite living in a remote village, often lacking resources others take for granted, and facing many daily struggles, these children are blessed to receive an excellent education, similar to any other Thai student, so that they may go on to serve and be leaders in Thailand or other countries throughout the world.
Nicole Betteridge serves as a Global Mission Intern with the Church of Christ in Thailand. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Week of Compassion, Disciples’ Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission and your special gifts.