School and Community Center: The Andaman Center has gained the support of the Burmese Community and prominent community leaders and community groups. The center is seen as a safe place that can be used for the entire Burmese community to meet and be used for events, celebrations and ceremonies.
The Foundation for Education and Development (FED) held a parent meeting at the Andaman Center to promote parent involvement in their child’s education and to discuss current educational topics. Key partners that attended were: North Andaman Network Foundation (NAN) staff, the Burmese community village headman and a community Burmese charity group that has recently “adopted” the Center as its project. We had a great attendance of 60 parents that included both mothers and fathers. We also saw students that graduated from the Andaman Center and are working in the local Burmese Community. One graduated student, works at a hair and nail salon at the pier!
It was a day full of laughter and good will as parents were given coffee refreshments and home-made Samosas from a Burmese family at the pier. Parent meetings are a safe place for information sharing about migrant rights in Thailand. FED not only goes over educational issues and topics, but they also touch on elements that are important to the safety and security of the migrant families living in Thailand and areas to improve their welfare and livelihoods. We are so happy that the Andaman Center and educational efforts also provide an outlet for the local Burmese Community to receive proper information about their rights as migrants.
A number of topics were covered at the meeting. FED introduced programs for basic educational pathways for migrant children living in Thailand so parents know all of their options regarding long-term stay in Thailand or if they return to Myanmar. They explained the system of transfer certificates for education continuation and emphasized sending students to school and the system put in place to ensure students can receive a continued education past 6th grade in Thailand or in Myanmar.
FED also discussed recent labor enforcement and regulations in Thailand. For example, Illegal workers are fined 5,000 Baht, deported and not allowed to legally enter Thailand for 2 years. Also, Thai labor laws say that legal migrant workers can change their jobs- workers often times think they are stuck to their one job- making it difficult to seek better paying jobs. FED’s migrant education team will be conducting training for the local fisherman next month. FED gave their hotline information that is a 24 hour source for Burmese Migrants to access in case of emergencies. They also discussed their mobile application that has information like migrant laws, enforcement and migrant rights. The community Burmese charity group will post the information to access these applications in prominent Burmese locations at the pier.
We were thrilled to have the Pier Burmese Village headman attend the meeting for the first time. He is an asset and trusted leader of the Burmese community. We know that with his support, parents will become more open to sending their students to the center and also see the school building as a community recourse and community center. He gave a plan to get donations from parents. The donations will be used primarily for education like assisting with tuition fees for families that cannot afford them and for school maintenance. Donations will also be used for community events like sports days or religious celebrations. Certificates will be issued to parents that make donations. He explained the importance of parent involvement both intrinsically and monetarily to be involved in their child’s education. He said that families and the community need to rely on themselves and each other to support their child's education.
We also have the support and contribution of the community Burmese charity group. They are also seen as prominent Burmese leaders and are trusted by the community. Their recent contributions to the center and community involvement are inspiring. They are in the process of getting small funds together to fix the bathroom stalls at the Center. They also have a small scholarship program, money is gathered from families that have enough to spare and are willing to share. The money is used for scholarships, Center maintenance and also community celebrations and events. Last Semester the group supported 5 students with Center tuition fees and five more this Semester. The group gave a speech to parents about the importance of their students staying in school and getting an education and that together as a community they can make this happen.
They also rose over 5,000 THB for an upcoming religious celebration that will be held at the Center for the entire Burmese Community. Parents and families also donated money in support of the event. It means a lot that the community is coming together and has chosen to host this even at the Center, it means that the community is seeing the Andaman Center as a safe place to come together to meet, celebrate and congregate.