CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Although it had stopped raining, clouds still blanketed the high peaks of the Banthat mountain range, which could be seen clearly from the school's yard. A modern two-storey building stands at one end of the yard, contrasting against the old, flat one-storey school edifice. Recently, the building has been serving as the new education hub for students, parents and community members in the vicinity.
Students at Ban Nong Wha School in Trang province enjoy their new ‘Centre for Learning with Fun’, which was donated recently by The Better Thailand Foundation. PURICH TRIVITAYAKHUN
"From a school that was really scarce in many things, now I am confident that this school will be a driving force," said Chote Chitkhao, headmaster of Ban Nong Wha School, a compact school with 160 students and nine teachers located to the south of Trang city, not far from the Banthat mountain range.
Recently, SVOA, through The Better Thailand Foundation (BTF), its corporate social responsibility (CSR) project, donated a "Centre for Learning with Fun" to Ban Nong Wha School.
This is the third centre with the same name that the foundation has presented to schools in remote parts of Thailand. The first is in Nakhon Nayok and the second is in Sakon Nakhon provinces.
"Our mission, as businesspersons, is to contribute what the government cannot provide or to enhance what it has provided but not sufficiently," said Jack Min Intanate, founder of SVOA and chair of BTF, speaking at the ceremony at the school to present the centre.
For over 10 years, BTF has been opening up education opportunities to underprivileged students by way of donations of libraries, computers and other channels of learning, for example.
Mr Jack explained that many schools do not have the facilities to support the use of new computers and that he would like to see a closer relationship between schools and their immediate community.
One of the results of this vision is the project to build a Centre for Learning with Fun in as many places as possible. A key condition governing the donation of such centres is that a school and its community must co-manage the centre.
Centre of learning
The first floor of this 2-million-baht learning centre serves as a library, while the second floor houses a computer lab. The building comes with eight new computers and a large collection of books. All the people in the community are welcome to make use of the facilities.
"I'm very happy," said Assarawut Khongdee, a Prathom 6 (Grade 6) student, upon his first step inside the new computer room. The boy added that the place made him want to learn.
Another first-time user, Wuttipong Sharemhue, a Prathom 5 (Grade 5) student reading a new science comic book, said, "I feel as if I'm embarking on an adventure." He confessed that in the past he went to the school's old library only occasionally but that henceforth he would be going to the much-improved library every day.
"We have already set up the timetable for students and community members to use the building," said the headmaster. At the beginning, students in each class will take turns using the building according to a prescribed schedule. Community members will be allowed to utilise the centre between 3.30pm and 4.30pm on weekdays. The centre is also open on weekends from 9am to 12 noon.
At this time, teachers at the school will monitor the persons who use the centre and will supervise the centre. However, Mr Chote is collaborating with local government officials to provide the school with personnel assigned to work solely for the centre.
"I want students in this school to have access to the same education opportunities as those who study in advanced schools in major cities. The difference between the two types of schools is just their physical appearance. There is no difference in the learning propensity of students," declared the headmaster.
The next Centre for Learning with Fun will be granted to a school in Mae Hong Son province in November. The goal is to donate three centres next year.
"This project is still in the initial stage. I expect that at least one such centre will be built in each and every province in Thailand," said Mr Jack, adding that in the future the BTF should be able to grant three to five centres every year.
He said that when at least 10 centres have been established, a contest might be held among them to determine the winner of the Best Operator prize. The winner will be the archetype for the other schools to follow.
"There are around 900,000 companies in Thailand registered with the Ministry of Commerce. If each of these companies adopts one school or even one student, [education] problems will be reduced to half," expressed Mr Jack emphatically.
More information on the Better Thailand Foundation is available on the website http://www.ecompanydesign.com/betterthai/3.php.