The Pha Lai mobile kindergarten is a school for young children from 1.6 years old to kindergarten level in Chiang Dao Sub-district. Currently there are about 80 students from six ethnic minority groups. It has the status of a kindergarten with budget support from foreign donor. The kindergarten receives little funding from government. While local government does support an early childhood development center in the sub-district, it is too far for the community to and the cost of travel is prohibitive.
One teacher (Ms. Neramon Biapa, nicknamed ‘Kru Oy’) is a key advocate for the mobile kindergarten and currently teaches there. In addition to teaching and minding the students, Kru Oy also has administrative tasks and keeps student registrations, manages data, and also serves as the school janitor and cook. That is a lot of work for one person. Kru Oy also assists the local village headman and members of the Chiang Dao Tambon Administrative Organization (TAO is a local government unit, the third administrative subdivision below district and province) and others in need. She prepares documents and reports, and villagers often seek her out for help.
At the beginning of 2016, the mobile kindergarten received the unfortunate news that its foreign donor had to discontinue funding of two teachers. One was Kru Oy. Losing two teachers would also mean closing the kindergarten. Kru Oy knew she had to do something to save the school for the sake of the students, most of whom were ethnic minority children.
“At first, I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t see a way out. Without this kindergarten, the children would never go to another kindergarten.” Kru Oy said.
On April 27-29, 2016, Kru Oy attended a “Women Leaders Training” which included the topic of gender dimensions and participatory management of natural resources and the environment. The training was part of a project on “Empowerment is a Process: the Demarginalisation of Hill Communities in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai Provinces” implemented by ActionAid Thailand and its partner Community and Hill Development Foundation with funding support from the European Union. In addition to the skills building, the training was an opportunity for women leaders from different communities to exchange knowledge and experience. Through this training Kru Oy also learned more about the work of the TAO.
“I realized that I actually knew very little about the TAO and their responsibility for helping to educate pre-school children. If I hadn’t attended the training I wouldn’t have known about this resource.” Kru Oy said.
After she got back home, Kru Oy was very active in getting the Pha Lai mobile kindergarten into the educational support program of the local TAO. She worked closely with the Chiang Dao TAO project advisor and field staff of the “Empowerment is a Process: the Demarginalisation of Hill Communities in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai Provinces” project. Kru Ooy learned about the process needed to gain funding for the kindergarten. She presented her proposal to the members of the school board. All board members agreed with Kru Oy’s proposal since they recognized the unique value that the mobile kindergarten provided. Next, the proposal was presented to the full community in a public forum. After community approval, the proposal was added to the three-year development plan and the budget is on consideration of the Chiang Dao TAO.
All this coordination and networking by Kru Oy was successful. This case example also shows the role of community involvement in its own development. The grassroots can effect change from the bottom up and need not wait for funding to come down from the government as in the past.
Background of the project:
ActionAid (Thailand) collaborated with the Hill Areas and Community Development Foundation to implement a project to address problems of the Upper Basin of the Ping River. The Rural Thai Association implemented a project called “Ethnic Volunteers for Community Development and the Environment” with the objective to empower villagers to use their rights and their voice in managing local development to address local problems – for and by themselves. This grassroots ethnic volunteer effort coincided with national decentralization policy and administration, community empowerment, and Civil Society involvement (Empowerment is a Process: De-marginalization of Hill Communities in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai Provinces). That effort is a four-year project which was launched on July 1, 2013 and is scheduled to end in June 30, 2017.
The project is funded by the European Union