CHACHOENGSAO: Since Ban Nong Heang School in Phanom Sarakham district is understaffed, Krit Chomphra, 34, has to multitask to ensure day-to-day operations go smoothly and students receive a proper education.
As the only teacher and staff member at the micro-school of 20 students, Mr Krit also has to juggle multiple roles as a janitor, cleaner, cook and administrator.
The story of the lone teacher came to light after a video clip about the school was posted on social media last month by a local official at the tambon Khao Hin Son administration organisation who wanted authorities to help the understaffed school.
Many asked why the teacher has to struggle alone for the sake of his students without any assistance from state bodies or local administration.
''It was a long day. I was very tired,'' Mr Krit recalls of the first day he began carrying out the multiple tasks at the school.
A computer science graduate from Rajabhat Rajanagarindra University in Chachoengsao, Mr Krit started teaching at the school in 2019. At the time, there was a school director with two teachers working under him.
The director retired last year and a replacement has yet to be appointed.
Under current regulations, only a school with at least 60 students can have a director. "But this school has only 20 students," he said.
Meanwhile, the only other teacher at the school asked for transfer to his home province of Buri Ram last year, leaving him as the only educator employed on the premises, Mr Krit said.
He said the Educational Service Area Office in the province has been informed of the staff shortage and will hire a teaching assistant to help him temporarily.
A teacher recruitment examination will also be needed before the school can get another teacher, he said.
''I have to act as a director, and a teacher. I have to prepare lunch myself because there is no money to hire a cook. I also do the administration work and deal with procurement and put data into a computer system,'' Mr Krit said.
Every day, he teaches 20 students from Prathom 1-6 who gather in class at the same time.
''The class is a bit chaotic. But I can keep them under control. When they are noisy, I have to raise my voice to make myself heard,'' Mr Krit said.
Since the class is made up of students of different grades, he will teach one group of the same grade while the others do exercises in textbooks as they wait for him to teach them too, he said.
He said that the students also participate in lessons from a distance learning television programme, which airs live teaching sessions via satellite from Wang Klai Kang Won School under Royal Patronage in Hua Hin district of Prachuap Khiri Khan.
This gives students in remote schools nationwide access to the same education content provided by Wang Klai Kang Won School.
Mr Krit said there is only one computer at Ban Nong Heang School and students have to take turns using it.
"We need another computer, maybe a second-hand one, for students to google or watch Youtube on, without having to wait too long for their turn,'' he said, adding many school supplies, such as pencils, and pencils sharpeners, are donated by members of the local community.
Shortly before noon, he has to give students assignments so he can head off to the kitchen to prepare lunch for them, he said.
Proud of job
''Teaching all the students in the same class is exhausting, but this gives me a chance to get closer to them and find out more about their interests and problems.
"I have to find ways to keep their attention and focus on their schoolwork rather than let them get bored and drop out of education.
''I also know their parents and if any problems occur, we will find a solution. Whenever students fail to do their homework or do not behave well, I will alert their parents. We help each other to take care of the students,'' Mr Krit said.
Despite these hurdles, Mr Krit said he still takes great pride in his career, and even though he has found himself teaching at this lesser-known school, he does all he can to ensure the students get the best possible education.
He said that recently one of his students passed an entrance exam and was accepted at a well-known school in Ayutthaya. His student came 22nd among the 200 who passed the exam, he said.
Mr Krit said many students come from low-income families and lack basic school supplies, such as uniforms, shoes, erasers and pencils.
Meanwhile, the budget for lunch is based on feeding 15 rather than the present 20 students.
''The problem was caused by incomplete documentation. A request for additional funding will have to be submitted to the Khao Hin Son tambon administration organisation,'' he said.
Mr Krit also said he had met parents and community leaders for talks to find ways to ease the plight of the school.
They agreed that money should be raised to finance the school's operations to ensure students receive quality education and more food, Mr Krit said, adding that some parents are ready to pitch in to help with school chores.
"Some may lack financial resources, but they help in other ways such as cutting the grass and cleaning the premises,'' Mr Krit said.
One 32-year-old parent called Tarn has pledged to prepare lunch for the students herself and spare Mr Krit the time he spends shopping and cooking.
''Mr Krit deserves a rest as he is already tired enough teaching the students.
''We, parents, are ready to help if requested. We appreciate all the love and dedication he gives to his students,'' Ms Tarn said.
Prapa Niamsuay, a village head at Ban Moo 3 in tambon Lad Krathing in Chachoengsao's Sanam Chai Khet, said she was impressed with how Mr Krit runs the school single-handedly.
''As a gesture of moral support, we brought donated items such as sports equipment, school supplies, food items and drinking water and gave them to the school,'' Ms Prapa said.
In reply, Mr Krit said he was grateful that people have shown support now they are aware of the daily challenges he faces.
''I will do my job as a teacher to the best of my ability to help the students realise their dreams and ensure they will become good citizens. I will not abandon them.''