Isan youths' development stunted as parents go to Bangkok

Bangkok Post

Eight-year-old Thai girl Chayanit (left) sits with her grandmother Chanpen Uthachan at their home in the village of Baan Dua in Ubon Ratchathani province. Chayanit and her five-year-old brother Kittipop have been raised by their grandparents for almost their entire life after their parents left their rural village to find work in Bangkok. (AFP photo)
Eight-year-old Thai girl Chayanit (left) sits with her grandmother Chanpen Uthachan at their home in the village of Baan Dua in Ubon Ratchathani province. Chayanit and her five-year-old brother Kittipop have been raised by their grandparents for almost their entire life after their parents left their rural village to find work in Bangkok. (AFP photo)

With a bit of luck eight-year-old Chayanit will see her mother twice this year.

The little girl has been raised by her grandparents for most of her life after her mother left their rural village to find work in Bangkok.

A tide of internal migration has left 3 million Thai children growing up in similar circumstances and experts fear the phenomenon is incubating a social crisis.

Grinning widely as she plays with a top knot in her hair, Chayanit says she is happy with village life in Thailand's Isan region.

But the smile fades as the conversation turns to her family setup, an arrangement shaped by economic realities in a rice-farming region where work is scare and wages low.

"I like being with my grandparents, but I miss my mum. I can't go to see her and she can only come here every six months," she says.

Five-year-old Kittipop (right) is prepared for school by his grandmother Chanpen Uthachan at their home in the village of Baan Dua. (AFP photo)

Her mother has an office job in Bangkok and sends back monthly remittances of around 3,000-4,000 baht.

Poor but populous Isan has for decades seen its families split by migration. An estimated 30% of the region's under-18s are the children of migrant workers, most of whom leave for several years at a time, returning only for annual holidays.

The exodus "has been normalised" by society, said Ms Aree. But it is laden with risk. Their research indicates that Thai children living without their parents are prone to being poorly nourished, and suffer from developmental and behavioural issues.

Those factors are particularly damaging in Isan, where deprivation has been compounded by an ongoing drought. The region has several of the country's poorest provinces and its schools already turn out some of its worst-performing students.

Baan Dau in Ubon Ratchanthani province is much like any other Isan village: the tallest building is an ornate Buddhist temple, chickens flit between yards while a tiny shop serves a close-knit community cocooned by rice fields.

It is also nearly completely devoid of working-age adults.

Most have gone to where a taxi driver can make several times the monthly wage of a farmer.

"Maybe 80%, 90% of the households have grandparents raising the children," says Chayanit's grandmother Chanpen Uthachan, 70. "There is no work here, so my children have all moved to Bangkok."

Mrs Chanpen and her husband Prajak, also in his 70s, care for the girl and her five-year-old brother Kittipop. While there is no shortage of love, Mrs Chanpen says she has less energy than when she raised her own offspring.

"It's hard especially when they are sick and I have to stay up all night," she laments.

It's not just home life that suffers. Local teachers say rural children without parents struggle to concentrate and as a result score lower in literacy and numeracy than their urban peers.

Bangkok has for generations pulled in poor rural migrants. But the topic of what happens to the children left behind is not widely discussed.

Children aged between eight and 15 were significantly "less happy, less responsible and less confident" than those brought up by their parents. Worse still, infants' language and social skills suffer.

"Children are less exposed to activities that stimulate them such as reading, storytelling or games," Ms Aree, the academic, said, explaining the rural elderly are often poorly educated themselves.

Chayanit does her homework at her grandparents' home in Baan Dua. (AFP photo)

In addition, the absence of breast-feeding and a poor awareness of a children's dietary requirements also means many suffer stunted growth.

The issue amounts to a poverty trap, explains Thomas Davin Unicef's Thailand representative, as migrants doggedly trying to remedy their situation end up undercutting their children's lives.

"The poor become poorer... the cycle of vulnerability repeats itself," Mr Davin adds.

Boosting rural economic growth to encourage parents to stay and overhauling the country's education system are among the long-term solutions, while Unicef is also working with the government to give monthly support payments to poor families with young children.

But policy implementation is rarely simple in Thailand, a country whose recent history is saturated with coups and political unrest. Policies involving Isan are often highly charged.

When they are allowed to vote, Isan's people do so for parties allied to billionaire ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, whom they laud for recognising their challenges and aspirations, but who is hated by the Bangkok-centric elite for his populist appeal.

But it is the distance from his two young sons, not the politics of poverty, that preoccupy Assani Laocharoen, an Isan migrant who works in Bangkok delivering furniture.

Outside a squat, scruffy block of flats for migrant workers he says he can make it home only twice a year.

"I miss my kids so much. I just want to live with them, hug, kiss and hang out with them," he said.

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Office of Secondary Educational Service Area 20 (Udonthani)

Thanks to the support of the Office of Secondary Educational Service Area 20 (Udonthani), represented by Mr. Kriangkrai Petsatien, we are able to offer our volunteers a classroom/teacher training via English camps.

Volunteers can receive free teacher coaching if needed. (1 to 2 times a month). This takes place within the framework of English camps (@Englishstarsteam) at public schools in Thailand. We are very grateful that our volunteers are invited to participate proactively.

Profile Mr. Kriangkrai Petsatien


Master of  Education: Curriculum and Instruction ( English Languages )

Khonkaen University

                   Bachelor of Education:  Primary Education

Contact:   Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  061-159-4651

 (FB :Englishstarsteam)

Experiences:    2018 – Present: Educational Supervisor, English Teaching Training (English Camp) , Special Education (special; students))

                        2010 -2017:     Trainer about Youth Camp

                       Trainer  Teachers about technique teaching in classroom.  


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Sapana V2T Heroes Teaching Skills Handbook for Volunteers released!!

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Students of Stamford International University form a group to support V2T in social media

Volunt2Thai and Mark Kantorovich offers the young students of Stamford International University in Hua Hin to join a "practice lab" where they can use their newly acquired marketing skills. Especially in the social media and online environment!  

We do good and also tell about it. V2T creates wonderful projects and a promising future for the children, this should and must be communicated and transported through the media. Whether social enterprise or profit-oriented company. Without marketing, a company is like someone who sits in a dark room and expects people to find him without light.

Marketing is what creates customers and generates revenue, determines the future course of a company and defines whether it will be a success or a failure. Marketing is indispensable. Marketing is an activity that requires a lot of professional experience. Therefore we are happy that we can offer the students of Stamfort International University with Volunt2Thai the opportunity to apply marketing in a real environment.

The students can gain very important experiences and do good at the same time!

Marketing is the most important part of every business activity. V2T should develop over the next years as a Social Business. Volunt2Thai, like most small charities, has many pictures and stories to share but no marketing budget. But V2T can offer the students an important test field. The promotion of an NGO is a challenge. Such an environment offers prospective marketing students the necessary practice and applied research.

These very valuable experiences can later be directly applied in the professional life. A win-win situation for the students, for V2T and for the children supported by Volunt2Thai.

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Public stargazing at the Volunt2Thai Campus

We'd like to thank Mr. Frank Paesler (Germany) from Astronomie für Alle (Astronomy for everyone).

"no light pollution on campus"

Astronomy are very closely related to physics and mathematics, opening up new insights. Astronomy is part of the natural sciences and concerns us all. The realization that the universe is our home and our planet Earth on which we live is our little island of life, which existed even before we as individual persons were born, is an important part of our mind development even if we need a lifetime to recognize these facts and to count them together.

It is an important part of our personality development to better understand who we are and where we come from. Astronomy teaches us the meaning of time (our lifetime a window of generations) and space (our habitat) but also the understanding of big and small. That is why it teaches us also what is important and unimportant.

The children and people of our region have never seen an astronomical telescope before, so we are very happy about the donation from Mr. Paesler.

Years ago I had been active in astronomy myself and now I would like to take some time to refresh this knowledge and share it with the children. Astronomy is a complex subject it will take me some time to reorient myself. I will also have to learn to use this "new" astronomy instrument. Because there are different ways of telescope design. In the past I learned with a schmidt cassegrain telescope. However, this telescope is a Newton telescope, also called a Newton reflector. It is a kind of reflecting telescope invented by the English scientist Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727). So I think it will take a few more weeks until we can use the telescope for the first time with the kids. But if there are any hobby astronomers in our area who know how to handle this instrument well, I invite everyone to join and organize stargazing evenings with the children in advance (this also applies to future volunteers)

Best regards to Germany, thank you Mr. Frank Paesler for this wonderful present which is priceless to us.

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