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Stories from the front-line - Sophie (with AV)

I may only be a few weeks into my teaching placement, but it has already become apparent how absolutely vital education is in this part of the world. Around 80% of the children at my school are from ethnic minorities, either Burmese refugees or members of the hill tribes. This means that they are often not recognised by the government as citizens of Thailand, and as a result these schools on the border receive scarcely any funding, despite their desperate need. For some of the children, Thai is in fact their second language, making education a monumental task. This is made even harder by the fact that many of the hill tribe children have parents who never attended school, and so receive little to no support at home.

Despite their difficulties, the children seem to be eternally smiling. They are friendly, trusting and eager to welcome these strange Scottish girls into their classroom. My heart was particularly wrenched by one little boy in Year 3, who is almost completely deaf. Obviously, he has no hearing aid or cochlear implant, and he doesn't appear to know sign language. He struggles to keep up with the rest of the class and is often given simpler exercises, such as drawing, to do while they complete their work. Despite this, he is one of the most cheerful and eager to please of all the children, always smiling and laughing and running around with the other students. If only the school had more funding, perhaps he could have more individual attention, maybe someone to teach him sign language, or lip reading. As it is he will leave primary school barely able to speak.

My only hope is that I will see my students' English improve, even marginally, in the time I am here. It may not change their lives, but it will help a little. Sophie