Jiravithi Jitjak, a teacher from a state school in Nakhon Pathom province, submitted a letter to the House education committee on Saturday.
It was signed by 4,855 people asking the Ministry of Education to provide electronic devices such as computers, tablets and access to the internet for teachers and students. In addition, the Education Ministry was asked to provide monetary assistance for teachers who have spent their own cash to appraise their students' work.
As a result, the House has summoned Education Minister Treenuch Thienthong to clarify how her ministry can place itself in a position that will best allow teachers and students to cope with online education as the pandemic continues.
In the past 18 months, the ministry has launched several measures including long-distance learning TV channels for students in remote areas and a recently launched website as a platform for online classes.
Yet, these solutions are far from enough and even the petition's requests reflect only a few of the problems experienced by teachers and students since face-to-face classes were replaced with online methods.
It's the poorer families who typically suffer more as parents must somehow provide computers and tablets for their kids, and that is if they're able to find the money to do so.
For Thailand the lack of computer access or a strong wifi signal is just the tip of the iceberg of issues. The impact from Covid-19 on our children's education is far and wide.
According to a survey by the Equitable Education Fund released in May, it's estimated that 65,000 students from poor families will drop out from the education system this year.
The survey noted how large numbers of parents have been laid off work or had their hours reduced which resulted in many students moving schools or even having to drop out. The government learned about this issue, and established a subsidy of 3,000 baht for each student but it remains to be seen if it will help keep affected students in the education system.
In comparison, many governments overseas were quick to see how they could give their students proper access to online learning as schools closed. For instance, the British government has provided computers, as well as free meals, for students forced to stay home during its lockdown.
Closer in Asia, the Singapore government provided money; some 4,700 baht per each student to purchase electronic devices. The South Korean government, apart of giving tablets and computers, also provided classes for children with special needs.
The Thai government and its education ministry have to be more aggressive in managing the impact of Covid-19 on teachers and students. They must do their utmost or the future of many children will be irreversibly impacted.
We are yet to see the finishing line for when this pandemic will end. Indeed the government is haunted by past mistakes and corruption, especially in delivering free tablets to schools a decade or so ago, but this can't be an excuse for inaction.
To save our children's education computers and education materials must be provided to students in both urban and rural areas. When needed struggling families must have financial support so we can all get to cross the line. One day the pandemic will be over but its impact on children, who have been deprived of a full education, will last.