Poverty transforming more students into breadwinners
More than 2 million students are at risk of dropping out of the education system as poverty turns more and more students into breadwinners to feed their families, according to the government.
The figures were revealed by the Education Ministry and the state-run Equitable Education Fund (EEF), after they surveyed about 430,000 school dropouts across the country.
"The most cited reason was to help their parents earn money, but this is worrying because many of these former students we surveyed -- some of whom are as young twelve -- are employed in menial and dangerous jobs at construction sites and selling flower garlands on street corners," said EEF Manager Suphakon Buasai.
Mr Suphakon said that the EEF is trying to rectify the situation by increasing the reach of its financial assistance for needy students for the 2019-2020 academic year.
"We aim to reach up to 800,000 poor students -- up from 510,000 last year," he said.
That said, Mr Supakorn said that house visits by teachers are more important than handing out scholarships and grants.
Over 400,000 teachers working under various government agencies, including the Border Patrol Police, are currently working together to identify communities and students who need the most help from the government, he said.
Dr Suphakon raised the issue at an EEF event to launch a new campaign dubbed Chot Mai La Khru (Leave Letters for Teachers), which was inspired by the letters sent in by needy students who were forced to drop out of school to help their family to make ends meet.
Phongsakon Asaphithakphrai, a Matthayom 2 (8th Grade) student at Ban Na Kian School in Chiang Mai's Omkoi, was among the students who participated.
"I left school because somebody needs to help my mother," he wrote. "Although I'm not a top student, I really want to go back to school."
A group of artists is also helping poor students voice their problems through murals in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Khon Kaen.
"We hope people will be moved by the students' plight by looking at the art on these corners," Amnat Unchai, of Street Art network, said.