A village school in the mountains of rural Thailand:
Miles away - both literally & figuratively - from the government schools in Bangkok that the 'cousins' went to, & even further removed from the swish private schools that their kids now go to.
Today = Wednesday = scouts day, when all school kids across the kingdom are required to turn up for school in their boy or girl scouts uniform (a few schools have it on a different weekday). Here you just turn up in whatever parts of a uniform you have:
Boy on left in a combination of normal uniform (shirt) + scout uniform (hat + scarf) + PE uniform (trackpants) & slippers:
Thailand has this thing for uniforms - school teachers & university students wear uniforms, & even university academic staff & civil servants have formal uniforms with jackets that look exactly like military ceremonial dress - complete with gold buttons, badges, tabs, epaulettes & lanyards.
minimum wage (Chiangrai province) = 146 baht/day (2007), 157 baht/day (2010) income for most hilltribe people in this region = ~150 baht/day
Headmaster/teacher who doesn't bar kids from school for 'incomplete uniform' = priceless
Additional cost considerations: * T-shirt + trackpants for PE uniform * Fridays = traditional dress day in some regions; some schools require students to wear indigo หม้อฮ่อม'mor hom' (traditional Lao Phuan/Lanna farmers' outfit) * some schools require different uniforms for 'summer' & 'winter' e.g. long-sleeved blouses for girls' 'winter' uniform
Education is theoretically free up to Mor. 3 (third year of secondary school), but cost of uniformsss (plus books, stationery, transport, additional fees charged by schools, food, etc) end up keeping a good number of kids out of school &/or from continuing their studies beyond lower secondary school. Quite often, rural kids who are able to meet the whole lot of uniform requirements are those who have parents or other relatives working in cities or other countries & remitting money home. For the Mae Salong area, it usually means working as labourers in Taiwan, like what Mr Assistant Headman (who brought us to the school) did for a couple of years. His own daughter was in full girl scout uniform today ;)
A great deal of time at Thai schools is devoted towards reinforcing beliefs in the three pillars of ชาติ chaat (Nation), ศาสน์ saat (Religion) & กษัตริย์ gasat (Monarchy):
Before the end of the school day, everyone turns around...
...to pay their respects to the Buddha statue:
The cat has never been to the deep south of Thailand, but for everywhere else it has been, in government schools, Religion = Theravada Buddhism, regardless of whether students are animists, Mahayana Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Catholics, agnostics, atheists or even Pastafarians. Not too sure if Buddha ever intended to have things done this way...but guess knowing all the 'correct things to do' does help the kids 'fit'/blend into lowland Thai society.
Even the teacher has to be in full scout uniform like an overgrown kid:
Thai guys are trained from young to embrace the colour pink:
A different kind of swing in the school playground - it's an Akha village after all:
Turned inside-out, revealing the amount of stitches required to attach all the beads, Job's tears seeds, cowrie shells, buttons & bits of silver:
Woven bamboo platform with the same style of construction as the floor of the sleeping area of Agong's house - more durable than the usual style used for balconies, & very comfortable (at least to this cat) & cooling (during hot season) to sleep on, no need for any mattress: