The death of 17 Indigenous students reflects the poor government policies on education.

STATEMENT OF THE INDIGENOUS EDUCATION NETWORK (IEN) “Fire Outbreak and Tragedy with the Death of 17 Students in school dormitory, damages to indigenous peoples and lessons learned with the review of Government Policies on Education”

In reference to the fire outbreak of school dormitory where was a house of girl primary students of the Phitak Kiat Wittaya School, Vieng sub-district, Vieng Pa Pao district, Chiang Rai province, on the date of 22nd May 2016, this caused the death and injuries of persons whom majority were indigenous children from various ethnic groups. Such incident reflects the problems and shotcommings of Government Policies on Education with impacts to indigenous communities at least in two principal issues, as:

Issue No.1: the abolition and merging of small schools in local communities gives no choice for all parents and guardians to send their children to schools located in towns, some children dwelling with their parents in remote villages are obliged to start their kindergarten or preschool classes outside and far from their families. They are involuntarily choosing to take daily transportation with exposure to travelling accidents and in some communities located in remote areas without possibility for back and forth in one day so they have to stay in dormitories, particularly those provided on the public welfare basis or by non-profitable organizations with limit of standards and potential for care-taking and safety for child protection.

Issue No.2: the quality of education of community school as most of teachers are growing up and living in different areas and without common understandings on community cultures, while there is none of relationship with that particular community. This causes a high turnover and regular reshuffling of teachers. Moreover, the curriculums provided in schools are not encouraging all children to link with and learn from their community livelihood. Most of parents with affordability would send their children to pursue basic or higher education in schools with high quality of education, as they believe that schools located in towns might have higher quality than those in communities and also that private schools shall own higher quality than those in those belong to the government or public services.

The phenomena witnessed under those two aforementioned issues are: (i) the increase of cost of education being paid by the parents with unavoidable burdens; and (ii) the growing up of children under vulnerability while they are not able to learn and acquire their basic skills for life spending and shall face problems with addicting behaviors towards: gaming and consuming narcotic drugs as well as being teenage mothers. The most important once they are graduated with only academic knowledge gained, they would not have enough basic knowledge, skills and attitudes to be with their motherland cultures and traditions. They would fell cultural rootlessness then shall not be able to continually inherit and develop their cultures and finally ending-up with not be able to fit-in their motherland and would be expelled from a sense of belonging membership of community.

Thus, the Indigenous Education Network (IEN), the Network of Indigenous Peoples of Thailand (NIPT), the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Thailand (CIPT) and all relevant partnership organizations and networks working on child rights protection and alternative education schemes would like to propose and urge Thai Government and all relevant agencies to take actions as follows:

1) Thai Government shall take urgent actions with substantive and concrete helps and remedial for all children and their family members facing traumas and losses from the fire outbreak of girl primary students dormitory of the Phitak Kiat Wittaya School, Vieng sub-district, Vieng Pa Pao district, Chiang Rai province.

2) Thai Government shall regulate and supervise the acts in compliance with child protection and treatment standards with their safety in schools and public welfare premises where they might spend overnights during their school period. The inspection towards these schools and public welfare premises shall be regularly conducted and if any findings offending or against the standards, their licenses or certificate of permission shall be repealed and void immediately.

3) Thai Government and relevant government agencies shall take concrete actions with the review of laws, by-laws, regulations and policies relating to the education provided which threaten the development and provision of culturally relevant education with quality in local community.

4) Thai Government shall allocate and subsidize budget for promoting education provided by community school upon the National Education Act, B.E. 2542 (1999) and Ministerial Regulation on Rights entitled to Community-based and Non-Governmental Organizations to Provide Basic Education in Form of Learning Centers, B.E. 2557 (2014).

5) Thai Government and relevant agencies shall promote life-long and culturally relevant education schemes for indigenous communities with respect to their community cultures.

6) Thai Government shall allocate budget for capacitating all members of school committees, particularly to those representing communities to be able to carry out their duties with more efficiency.

These proposals would encourage communities to be able to take part and jointly manage basic education on the ground of community level. They also help to maintain the senses of belonging to communities of new generations educated from academic curriculums. All children and youth would have more life engagements with their families while their parents would be relieved from huge amount of budget spending for their children’s education.

The Indigenous Education Network (IEN), the Network of Indigenous Peoples of Thailand (NIPT), the Council of Indigenous Peoples of Thailand (CIPT) and all relevant partnership organizations and networks will spend vigorous efforts following-up the acts with implementation towards the above-mentioned proposals and hope that Thai Government and all relevant agencies shall take serious actions with more or less solutions for solving of these problems with promotion of the community schooling.

“Indigenous education with proof of government policies promoting community schooling with sustainable development of society with pluralism in Thailand”