Most of the children that we teach at Kwah Dao are from Shan migrant families. These families have fled civil war and ongoing human rights abuses. The families are not recognised as “refugees” in Thailand so they are denied safe refuge and assistance from international aid agencies.
The brunt of this problem is borne by the children. Their parents are compelled to work as migrant labourers, often illegally and many of the children end up repeating this cycle of low opportunities.
Technically, all children in Thailand have the right to attend Thai schools. However, Shan immigrants often experience difficulties when trying to access them. Parents doing the “3Ds” jobs (Dirty, Difficult and Dangerous) are paid so little that, even with the support that is available from the Thai government, sending children to Thai schools is beyond their means.
Even if children manage to attend schools, there are many social barriers they must overcome.
Thankfully, the Shan children in Pai are luckier than most immigrants. Their parents – being confined to Pai, but not to camps, can find work more easily and, although they often struggle with the costs for education, Kwah Dao has been bee to demonstrate the value of a higher education.
You may have asked yourself why, if the children are visiting Thai schools on a regular basis, we teach them both Thai and English. After all, Thai schools teach in Thai exclusively.
The Shan community has strongly expressed wishes to preserve their language and identity for when all Shan people return home to Shan State once peace has been achieved. As a result, the Shan community along the Thai-Shan State border speaks the Shan language at home 99% of the time. When speaking Thai, they speak a mixture of Tai Yai and the prevalent northern Thai dialect.
Naturally, only speaking Shan at home, the children grow up with a language deficit. Their Thai teachers are biased towards the Thai students and seldom make the effort to give extra attention to the Shan children.
But what if the children wish to continue their education at university or obtain gainful employment?
Well, they need to be able to speak, read and write Thai!
The children that visit Kwah Dao for a few years have the advantage – even over Thai Children – that, thanks to your generous donation, they can read, write and speak three different languages.
Thai, Shan, and English…