Literacy program launched for stateless children

5literacy5Thousands of out-of-school children from migrant, ethnic minority and stateless families will have a chance to obtain or improve their literacy and math skills through an initiative launched last week by the government in partnership with UNESCO Bangkok, Microsoft Thailand and True Corporation.

Called the “Mobile Literacy for Out-of-School Children Project,” it will use Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to deliver lessons to young people. The project will employ a comprehensive offline mobile phone and tablet application that features a trove of educational resources targeted at young out-of-school Myanmar learners living in Thailand. UNESCO, or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, designed the application.

Microsoft will provide funding for the initiative along with tablet computers for the learners and training programs. True Corporation, which is Thailand’s leading cable television provider and among the top three mobile phone operators, will donate internet and satellite television packages focusing on educational programs. The government’s Office of Informal and Non-formal Education will oversee implementation and work to ensure the long-term sustainability of the initiative.

Thailand has provided refuge and home to tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of children from Myanmar.  Many live along the Thai-Myanmar border areas in the west and north of the country. More than 150,000 refugees from Myanmar live in Thailand as well as an estimated one to two million migrant workers from that country. The refugees fled fighting between Myanmar government forces and ethnic rebel armies, and their presence is a testament to Thailand’s strong and positive record on humanitarian issues.

Furthermore, many children of hill tribes or other ethnic minorities, particularly those who seasonally migrate across borders, are regarded as stateless because of a lack of documentation on where and when they were born.

Not all refugee, migrant or stateless children have been able to access education in Thailand’s public education system. In addition, many drop out for a variety of reasons, including finding it difficult to adjust to learning in another culture.

Thailand has passed laws that grant access to education and health care to all stateless children in recent years, and been praised for doing so, but implementation has been uneven, resulting in many stateless children not being able to attend schools.

literacy1To reach stateless, refugee and migrant children with educational opportunities, the Thai government works with various international agencies such as UNESCO and UNICEF, and with nongovernmental organizations such as the Children’s Protection and Development Center (CPDC) and the Development Education Program for Daughters and Communities (DEPDC).

The CPDC has integrated its education programs with those of the Thai government, according to a study published in 2015 entitled “Preventing Human Trafficking: Education and NGOs in Thailand,” by Robert Spires. The CPDC has been helping to get stateless children enrolled in Thai public schools since 2010.

The Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation runs a Border Education Program that also offers opportunities for refugee children living in camps and stateless or hill tribe children near refugee camps to take part in Thailand’s national education system.

They are just a few of the dozens of organizations working in collaboration with the Thai government to reach refugee, migrant and stateless children and provide them with education. While many have yet to be reached, progress has been made and various studies have shown a marked increase in stateless and migrant children attending Thai schools in recent years.