Thailand: Fund to focus on ‘very poor’ students

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) - These Children don’t even have enough for a proper breakfast’.

The Equitable Education Fund (EEF) is trying to boost financial aid for more than 600,000 students who fall in the category of “very poor” or have just Bt42.7 in their pockets per day on average.
“We hope the increase will go into effect next month,” EEF assistant manager Kraiyos Patrawat said yesterday. 
He was speaking after the EEF, in collaboration with the Office of Basic Education Commission, used proxy means tests (PMT) to indirectly determine students’ household income and the money each student is likely to have. 
“Our estimate is that students in the ‘very poor’ category are allotted just Bt1,281 per month from their family’s income. If we divide this figure by the number of days in a month, each student in this group gets just Bt42.7 per day. That’s not even enough for a proper breakfast,” Kraiyos said. 
He said about 12.9 per cent of the total number of students in the country fell under the “very poor” category, while some 22.3 per cent or 1,075,476 students were in the “poor” category. 
The provinces with the highest percentage of cash-strapped students are: Mae Hong Son, Narathiwat, Kalasin, Si Sa Ket, Chiang Mai, Maha Sarakham, Buri Ram, Roi Et, Mukdahan and Ubon Ratchathani, Kraiyos said. 
“The EEF will focus on the ‘very poor’ group first,” he said.
Currently, the government grants Bt1,000 per semester to primary students and Bt3,000 per semester to secondary students in the “very poor” category. 
Sompong Jitradub, a professor at the Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Education, called on teachers to seek help for “very poor” students. 
“For instance, they could seek funds for activities to boost the potential of these students. They could also work on inspiring these students,” he said. 
Chonchanok Nurod, a school director in Suphan Buri province, said her students raised donations to help pay for poor students’ education and meals. “When we visit them, we bring along a 5-kilogram bag of rice,” she said. 
Weeranat Tanawang, a teacher in Nan province, said some families earned so little that their children walked to school in order to save the Bt15 a day granted to them as travel allowance by the state. 
Kraiyos said that EEF plans to boost financial support for very poor students by Bt1,000 to Bt2,000 per semester. 
“We will hold public forums to hear the opinions of stakeholders in all regions, starting with the North,” he said. The first forum will be held in Chiang Mai province on August 15, with many more to follow. 

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