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SATURDAY, September 24, 2022
Explainer: Back to school: Start of new semester ends in tragedy for one student

Explainer: Back to school: Start of new semester ends in tragedy for one student

TUESDAY, May 17, 2022
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Schools across Thailand reopened on Tuesday for the first time in two years, and though most students got to attend class, one 14-year-old girl couldn’t.

The Phatthalung native, who lives in Songkhla with her family, had been a student of Satri Phatthalung School for two years.

The reopening of schools meant she had to head to Phatthalung so she could attend classes. However, she had nowhere to stay there.

Besides, she and her family have been in dire financial straits for the past two years. And to add to her woes, her parents had separated and her mother developed a gambling habit.

Despite that, the youngster did not give up and asked for permission to rent a place and find a part-time job to support herself in Phatthalung. However, her request was denied.

According to the youngster’s last social media post, she then called her school adviser for suggestions but was told more or less the same. The post read that the adviser instead told her to find another school because her parents did not care for her and would only cause problems.

So, the youngster decided that suicide was the best way out and killed herself on May 13. She was cremated in Songkhla on Saturday.

The school’s side

School principal Malee Keolaaid put the tragedy down to misunderstanding and explained what had taken place.

She said that she learned from a teacher on May 9 that the student was still in Songkhla and could not return to Phatthalung because she had nowhere to live and no guardian. So, Malee said, she asked teacher Chanya Choomek, who is in charge of counselling students, to step and help the 14-year-old.

On May 11, the student’s class teacher identified only as Surawat, called the teen to ask if she had returned to Phatthalung. The student said she wanted to return but could not, without elaborating.

He then took the case to Chanya and both came up with a couple of solutions, which Surawat then offered to the teenager. They were:

  • Enrol at a school in Songkhla, so she can live with the family, or
  • Contact the Children and Youth Centre if she wanted to return to study at the Phatthalung school.

Malee said she did not know about the young girl’s situation but only knew that the law requires her to get her mother’s permission if she wants to live on her own.

The principal also defended the counsellor, saying she always helped students and had no bad intentions.

The principal also said the school had set up measures to help students and that this tragedy had taken place due to misunderstanding.

Malee also said the school never demands that tuition fees be paid in time and that parents are always informed in advance. Also, she said, students can apply for a discount or exemption.

Chanya also confirmed that the school and teachers always help students and that this misunderstanding may have occurred when the student recounted the conversation to her friends.

She also denied rumours that the student did not get the scholarship she had been entitled to.

Ongoing investigation

The school has tasked vice-principal Montree Kamchuai to set up an investigation committee.

Committee member Parinya Anuphinij, who is a lawyer at the Phatthalung Education Office, said an investigation is necessary because there is too much confusion.

He said this school always focused on the students and its caring system had inspired many other schools.

He also said that the media should present both sides of the story because the school and teachers were not to blame for the tragedy.

Meanwhile, the student’s family has refused to provide any information, saying they were too depressed and wanted this incident to end.

Guidelines from Education Ministry

  • If tuition fee has been collected during the Covid-related shutdown, then it should be returned to the students.
  • If the school needs to collect fees, then it must postpone or extend the period of collection.
  • Schools must prepare measures to help parents affected by the Covid crisis.
  • State organisations must ensure schools follow these measures that were put in place from 2021 onwards.

Explainer: Back to school: Start of new semester ends in tragedy for one student