THEP was established in 1991 in response to educational needs in Mae Hong Son province where the majority of the hilltribe people of Thailand reside. THEP became affiliated with ISGF in 1993 and has since worked closely to provide better school facilities for hilltribe children.
Hilltribe people of the north are the most significant minority group in Thailand and it is estimated that less than one third of their approximately 3,000 villages have access to any educational facilities, especially above sixth grade – within any reasonable proximity. Health, economic, political and other opportunities are equally sub-standard.
While previously marginalized, tribal communities in remote mountainous areas are being offered increasing government services, however they are still far behind the larger Thai society in every major area. Furthermore, the hilltribe people play almost no role at all in determining the type and extent of any new development opportunities offered and thus, not only their freedom of choice but also their very cultures are disregarded. The single most important factor in this lack of representation is their substandard education, which restricts their ability to share equitably in the determination of their own future.
It is a future that grows uncertain each year. Hilltribe people face growing challenges to their current lifestyle. These include dependence on a declining resource-swidden land, poor health as a result of limited hygiene and health awareness and the increasing problem of drug addiction and AIDS in some villages.
The primary objective if THEP is to support the education of hilltribe children.
The overall aim is to promote development within the village schools and thus equip the students themselves with the skills necessary for their future.
The specific objectives include:
- Promotion of educational opportunities
- Promotion of self-sufficiency
- Support and conservation of the cultures and traditions of the tribes
The objectives are promotes through the following means:
- Provision of water supply systems to specifically promote hygiene, to supply clean drinking water, to teach children the rudiments of health and hygiene and to assist agricultural programs such as – fish ponds, vegetable gardens, chicken, pig and mushroom houses
- Construction of boarding houses fir children who live in village without schools and who are forced to walk over 8 kilometers or more to a school – and to particularly encourage students to continue secondary education
- Construction of school canteens with kitchens to provide lunches (and meals for boarders) under hygienic conditions
- Provision of libraries – encouraging warm and positive relationships towards education
- Construction of extra schoolrooms such as Kindergartens or venues to provide supplementary education such as weaving, health care and social interaction
- Supporting agricultural projects in schools such as fishponds, chicken houses, vegetables gardens, pig houses, mushroom farming etc.
We finance our projects by requesting funds from friends, organisations, embassies and companies. Since 1990 THEP has assisted most of the village schools in Mae Hong Son, at least with portable libraries. We have provided support for multiple projects in approximately 80 village schools and donated around 220 portable libraries. THEP keeps a full record of all projects it is involved with.
In the first instance the Education Department sends a proposal requesting funds to build a canteen or library, a boarding house, a toilet block, a water supply system, or a chicken house, a fishpond, or fenced garden to assist the school lunch program. The proposal will outline the aims and objectives, the estimated costs, the plan and the benefits the school expects.
We will then accompany the District Officers to assess the projects and to meet the headmaster and villagers. A full account plus receipts and photos of the work carried out is presented to the sponsor upon completion. We also inspect the work and continue to monitor the effects. Funds may be provided for work requiring specific skills, however we encourage “self-help” and the villagers and students, with the help and supervision of the teachers and District Officers, carry out most of the work.
Thanks to our sponsors, THEP has seen some outstanding results from the projects it has implemented and continues to find the response encouraging and rewarding.
Recently we have been able to provide scholarships for hilltribe children to further their education. To obtain a secondary education, hilltribe students must board in the nearest town that provides school boarding facilities. 6,000 baht (approx US$175, GB100, A$215) per year is the amount required to cover boarding and travelling expenses for each student. In the case of hilltribe students entering university, their costs are much higher and we provide scholarships of 20,000 baht per annum to cover some of their expenses.