An indication of the scale of just one of the problems currently facing COF was graphically revealed by an initiative to identify the numbers & whereabouts of children who should be in school but who have no access to any education. The upshot of this survey has been the 2011 Children of the Forest Outreach Education Programme which in 2011 placed more than 200 stateless children in education.

There are many children in and around Sangkhlaburi who for various reasons (mainly the inability to speak Thai or through having to work or being too old to start school), cannot attend a normal school. Surveys carried out by COF at the start of 2011 established that at any given time there are likely to be around 500 stateless children living in or in the close vicinity of Sangkhlaburi who are not attending any school. COF has started 2 new programmes, under the project named “Outreach Education”, for these acutely disadvantaged children. These programmes are conducted by COF with vital support from Arteca of Italy, ADM Capital Foundation, The Mon Women’s Network and Border Health Initiative Sangkhlaburi. As well as placing vulnerable stateless children in education the outreach education porogramme has also been providing ’emergency education’. I.e education for children who have been identified too late to complete the registration process for a government education programme. The site for COF emergency education is about 8 kms from Sangkhlaburi township (on the outskirts of which the COF Project is itself sited) on the main road to the border, a rural area where there are many scattered clusters of temporary (& generally inadequate) housing, as well as factories and plantations, all attracting migrant (& accordingly vulnerable) families. This is also the site for COF- Border Lands (a programme for at risk stateless youth) and is located in an attractive natural setting on a site owned by the Generation Journey and Adventure House projects. A memorandum of understanding between COF and Adventure House Project secures for COF the right to use that land & the buildings on it for the purpose of extending its educational services to this particular target group.

The core objective of the emergency education project is literacy.  Thai & Burmese language classes are provided to a level which will permit the child to enter the Thai education system or, if that is the wish of the child’s family, to enter school in Burma. In addition the programme features tailored practical training  in life skills, including Break the Silence (aimed at raising awareness of the risks posed to children by sexual abuse & exploitation) health and hygiene awareness, & environmental and conservation awareness which involves practical training in self sufficiency such as soap making & charcoal making. To the same practical intent training is provided in sustenance & income generating activities which are environmentally considerate, such as vegetable & mushroom cultivation & fish farming.

Arteca’s specific contribution is in the field of art therapy activities which are designed to give the children the opportunity to explore their creative selves. Arteca’s initiatives are providing for many children an exhiliarating range of stimulating and diverse activities (& for those children with no prior experience of the classroom a novel introduction to education). These activities include, for example, animation, theatre, mime, yoga, judo, circus skills, acrobatics & even hip-hop dancing. By virtue of the classes offered by Arteca, these children have been given the chance to understand that school and learning can be fun (as well as being valuable.) Many of those children who have grasped that realisation will be continuing in the Arteca programme on completion of which they will join the COF school.

Today we have 23 children attending the emergency education programme. The success of this programme is such that the staff entrusted with its implementation are intending to increase both its reach & scope next year.

Hundreds of other children in & around Sangkhlaburi, including many with no other connection to the COF Project have now benefitted, or are still benefitting from  these various initiatives.   Responding to an invitation from COF, other Sangkhlaburi schools have encouraged the participation by their students in these varied activities, which are made available to them, on the COF Project site, to the extent of 2 classes per week.

Back to Newsletter