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THA06b - ITDF - Support of Key Personnel: Partnership Reports

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Report Date: March 17, 2014

Report from BHW Field Director


Ma Oh Jo School is a key component of the development strategy in the Om Koi District for our partners in Northern Thailand, Integrated Tribal Development Programme (ITDP). Over years of working in this area it became obvious to ITDP that education was a key component of development in the district. Few villages had schools and the government had no strategy or intention to start any more in the area for the Hill Tribe people. 

Too young to walk to schoolIf the children in this area were going to get an education they would have to leave home at a very young age and go to boarding schools and hostels in towns and cities a long way from their families. This causes many issues - families split up, young children lose contact with their family, their culture and village, it is more expensive for boarding and transport and many of the young lose interest in life back in the village and drift further away from their families. They then find themselves in the margins of Thai Society, often without citizenship papers, not educated enough to get employment and before long they are captured in the seedy side of life. 


Recent Events

Ma Oh Jo School

Ma Oh Jo is the largest of five small villages in a very rural area of Om Koi District, south west of Chiang Mai. For a number of years ITDP had been working in the area with water, sanitation, agriculture, and a small hydro system. After some time the community began to ask for a school. It was very obvious that few of the children were going to school anywhere.

Despite some reluctance to become involved in education, and with little experience, it was decided to try a pilot school project. In 2006 and 2007 the research was done, land was identified and the first buildings were erected. It was a mission as it was not just classrooms that were required, a kitchen was needed to cook meals for the children, houses for staff, toilets and bathrooms and administration offices, school furniture, the list was huge. Compounding the difficulty of building was the state of the road. ITDP largely had to build a road for about 20 kms to get their small utility vehicles in. 

The school began in 2008 with a few students and since then has grown to 167 students, from nursery to Grade 6. More recently a hostel with about 30 weekly boarders has also started. 

To obtain registration as a community school, a school has to come ‘under’ an existing local government school. A community school cannot go to a higher grade than the ‘mother school.’ There is now a need to go to Grade 7 and beyond, but the ‘mother school’ has stopped at Grade 6. In the next year or two ITDP intends to apply for a different designation and become a private Christian school. The Christians in the community are very keen for this to happen as in the local schools they are forced to learn Buddhism. Eventually this school may become a secondary school as well. The private designation would still attract government funding for teacher’s salaries but the school board would appoint teachers and oversee the curriculum. 


The hostel started in 2012 and there are now 30 students. They come from nearby villages where it is too far for the children to walk daily. An increasing number of villagers want their children to come to this school and the catchment area is increasing.  

Kree Mo Kee and Kraw lur Blur

building for nurseryJust 45 minutes by vehicle from Ma Oh Jo are two villages that ITDP is working in with Bright Hope World and some New Zealand churches (Hill Tribe Hope.) Kree Mo Kee and Kraw lur Blur are small villages with many children. The leaders of the village, after developing water and sanitation projects with ITDP, begged for help with education. So, in Kree Mo Kee a nursery school is being built (started in 2013) and developed. The plan is for this to go to Grade 3 and then from there for the children to go over to Ma Oh Jo school as weekly boarders. In Kraw lur Blur a similar programme is being developed (started in 2014 - see photo.) The feeling is that this may become a model as many other villages now want this type of help. It is especially the Christian families wanting this so their children can be educated in a Christian environment and with Christian values. The families are very excited about this opportunity for education in their own villages. It keeps their families together.

Desperate for a schoolI am writing this report in the two villages of Kree Mo Kee and Kraw lur Blur. These two villages are practically swarming with children. Some get to walk 4 km to school, the older ones, but most kids drop out. They have to be about 6 or 7 to be able to walk that distance, even then they are very tired at the end of the day, 4 kms each way to school every day is pretty daunting. So they don’t start school until they can walk the distance and by the time they are old enough to walk they are 3 years late to start school so they are sitting in class with children much younger than they are in a village where they are not known. This creates a huge barrier in their minds and many do not continue. Of course as they get older it becomes more and more embarrassing for them to be in class with children much younger than they are so they leave. Having a school in the village to bridge those early years and give them a good start is crucial. 

Starting a school has a possible down side. The intention is to start and only go to Grade 3. However, when people know there is a good school in a village, they shift to that village for the sake of education. It’s therefore possible to then put a lot of pressure on the existing small village and create other issues. This has to be carefully managed but it is largely out of the control of those involved in the development. 

This is a harsh, difficult place to live. The government will only come and help when communities step up and take initiative. Without someone like ITDP beside them, they will rarely have the boldness to take up the challenge themselves. Many of them are not registered as Thai citizens. In fact, the day I was in Ma Oh Jo to interview Preeya Pan Ong (the teacher) she was in Om Koi with a group of students filling out forms so they could be registered. They had no birth certificates or even proof of identity. Their parents don’t have identities, no marriage papers, and the government feels no responsibility for education, health or development for people who don’t officially exist. 


Personal Stories

Preeya Pan Ong 

Loves her jobPreeya Pan Ong has been supported by BHW for almost 3 years while teaching at Ma Oh Jo School. She teaches mathematics, Sunday School, Thai dance and singing. She comes from the nearby town of Om Koi and is from the Karen tribal group. In 2013, in her 3rd year at Ma Oh Jo, Preeya decided she wanted to do post-graduate studies and from the middle of that year has started studying for her Masters in Educational Management. It is not the piece of paper she is interested in, but the opportunity to learn new systems and processes that will help her to become a better teacher and to assist with the development of schools in the remote areas. A Christian NGO that helps Karen people further their education is helping her with her Masters studies. This has been a huge boost to her and the result of prayer and fasting from her point of view. She has learned to trust God a lot while at Ma Oh Jo as it is so remote. She has learned that God has all the resources needed for His work to be done. 

She likes both classroom teaching and administration. Her first degree is in computer education, a 5 year course with a diploma. She was surprised that she ended up in a rural school like the one in Ma Oh Jo. She never expected to be that far from the city as a teacher. But the experience has taught her a lot and shaped her significantly. It has been an “ultimate learning experience“ with the bonus of being able to help people. It was also a bonus to be working amongst her own people, the Karen. Most people join government schools so they can access loans to help their families but she joined an NGO because she wants to help people. 

With EmmaShe knows this is a calling from God and that God had been preparing her for something. Her parents were not Christians and her father would drink and then beat her mother. When she was young she had many problems and used to attend the temple. She became so passionate that she became the student leader of the school in the temple practices. Over a period of a year a friend started to talk to her about Jesus and Christianity. Every month she would come and talk to her. After a year, and feeling desperate, she started praying that God would help her with her problems. In a very short time she began to feel an overwhelming happiness and recognised that this was God answering her prayer. At the end of the school term she therefore resigned as leader of the Buddhist group and started a Christian group. At this time she was 16 years old. Her Buddhist teacher was very upset and from that time on gave her bad marks for her assignments. However, this made her stronger. She started reading the Bible and doing Bible correspondence classes. 

When she left school she went to Chiang Mai and joined a church there. After finishing her studies she did the YWAM DTS in Chiang Mai. One day when having a prayer time she had a vision of a school, she still isn’t really sure what this means. She saw the position at Ma Oh Jo advertised and applied for it and another job and got both of them. She decided to go to Ma Oh Jo even though it was a much more difficult situation to teach in. She had a sense of God leading her to the mountains. 

The first year was particularly difficult. She is not easy to get on with, she is pushy and determined and God had to teach her many things. She has a lot of personality and doesn’t mind expressing her opinion which is not typical of young Thai women and probably why she had some issues settling in the first year. Years 2 and 3 have been much better and she has loved it and learned a lot. She is a scout leader as well at the school. 

The ITDP team want her to come back as the director of the school sometime in the future. 


Influence within the Community

Preeya has noticed a lot of changes in the children in her three years at Ma Oh Jo. These include:

1) The children are now not so afraid to show their feelings and express themselves. They have a lot more confidence. 
2) Many of the children are coming to know Christ 
3) The children now freely take place in meetings 
4) Now the children are much more trustworthy. If they find things lying around they don’t take them. 
5) They are excited about study, before they were reluctant to study. They are self-motivated and want to do well. Many now want to go on to other schools when they finish Grade 6, before they would just drop out or go into informal education. The first group graduated from Grade 6 in 2012 and few of them went on to formal education. Those graduating in 2013 were very different with much higher objectives. 
6) The children are much more helpful at school and at home. This is causing a few problems as they want to help their parents at home and sometimes will chose to do that over education. The parents have noticed the change in attitude. 
7) For some reason this school has become good at sports and they do very well at the interschool competitions. 



Preeya's final comments which were delivered with passion were, “it is such an important thing to support the teachers at the school. There is no way the children from these villages would walk 8 km to school. Without the involvement of ITDP there would be no school here and little development.”