Southern teachers asked to be transferred to safer places
Safety concern has forced many teachers in the three southernmost provinces to ask for transfers out of the restive region whereas those who still remain teaching, their morale has substantially dropped raising a big question mark about the quality of education there.
According to official record since 2002, there have been altogether 6,178 requests from teachers asking to be transferred out of the violence-prone region. Out of the requests, only 1,843 were actually transferred with the rest still pending approval.
Teachers have become a soft target of attacks by suspected insurgents to win publicity of their struggle against the Thai state. A total of 155 teachers have been killed by suspected insurgents in the past nine years, including two since November.
The most prominent incident which has great impacts on the morale of teachers in the restive region was the murder on November 22 of Mrs Nanthana Kaewchan, director of Ban Tha Kam Cham school in Nong Chik district of Pattani. The fatal incident forced the Confederation of Teachers in the three southernmost provinces to close down 332 schools in Pattani to put pressure on the government to provide better protection for the teachers.
In quick response to the teachers confederation’s demands, the government has agreed to increase hazard pay for the teachers who risk their lives teaching in the restive region. More compensation was also promised in case the teachers are killed or sustain injuries. Security for teachers has also been beefed up to prevent further attacks by suspected insurgents.
But despite the increased financial support and security beef-up, three techers at Ban Tha Kam Cham have asked to be moved out of the region for their safety.
Mrs Chitravadi Mukkayawat, a teacher at the school, said that there is only one permanent teacher who is a government official at the school with the remaining six others being temporary employees.
There are 110 students from kindergarten up to Prathom 6 level at the school. Mrs Chitravadi said if her three colleagues were to be transferred elsewhere, it would practically leave only three teachers to take care of 110 students – which would be a huge burdern for the teachers.
Besides the problem of declining morale among the teachers, there is one major problem which, unfortunately, has not been addressed in earnest. That is the problem associated with the students due to the shortage of teachers which was clearly reflected in a remark made by Aimeen Maseng, a kindergarten student at Ban Tha Kam Cham shool.
"Whom should I learn the lessons if there are no teachers?’" asked the little girl, adding that she would like to study more so that she would become a teacher one day.
In order to deal with the problem of shortage of teaching staff at government schools, Mr Apinan Pakbara, deputy secretary-general of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre, said that teachers at private schools would be recruited to help teach as a temporary measure.
Aside from targeting teachers, suspected insurgents have also targeted schools as part of their terror campaign to discourage young Malay Muslims from attending non-religious schools and to strike fear among the teaching staffs.
The torching of Ban Tha Su school in Panareh district of Pattani by suspected insurgents on Demcember 3 is a case in point. The incident occurred on the day when most schools in the province resumed classes after a weeklong closure following the killing of director of Ban Thak Kam Cham school on November 22.
A security guard at the torched school, Doloh Hama, gave an account of the arsoning incident to the Isra news agency. He said four men in black uniform arrived at the front gate of the school at about 1.30 am. and asked to get in for security check claiming they acted upon the order of an army officer.
The four men were later joined by about ten others who stormed in and forced Doloh and his three colleagues at gunpoints not to resist them, said Doloh. The intruders then put the school on fire, he said, adding that they also told him to quit the security job for his own safety.
Caption : The students in Ban Tha Kam Cham school in Nong Chik district of Pattani.