From monk hood, to soldier, hotel staff, librarian and social worker, teacher Kamnol Chailert, has never thought that his life could be so dramatic to teaching refugees at Umpium camp, Tak province.
“I have adjusted myself to understand the language and the lifestyle. We can’t predict the attendance of these refugees’ students as sometimes they need to pick up rice and oil which is their priority. Thus, when students missed their class for over 3 days, I will go to their homes to check the problems. I then adjusted my teaching schedule to fit their lifestyle. If they can’t be present in the morning due to the food errand, they can come in the afternoon and catch up the lessons with other students.”
For teacher Kamnol, teaching Thai is more than teaching how to read and write.
“I try to teach them to be grateful to Thai soil. I teach them all the time to accept rules and regulations and not creating trouble so that they can stay here. My definition of teaching is not only academic but also other participation activities to instill fun in the class.
At Umpium camp, there are four Thai classrooms for over 300 students. The room and teaching methods are the teacher’s sole responsibility.
“When I first arrived, the room was in bad condition where students often fell down. Therefore I am determined to improve it. During the water festival, I took the job of writing 26 banners and earned 1800 Baht to buy cement. I obtained sand from the authourity and the students are the labour. That’s how we have the nice classroom floor.”
Before teacher Kamnol became refugee’s teacher, his perception towards refugees was just like any other Thais where refugees are scary and diseased. However, after teaching for over 1 year, his idea changed.
“I think society needs to give them another opportunity. You must give them the chance as they are homeless and they don’t have any prospect. They are too embarrassed to neither ask nor demand anything as they still have dignity. It’s up to us if we have enough generosity for them.”
Apart from his changed perception towards refugees, his lifestyle changes too.
“I realised we are wastrel on food. When I’m at home we have too much food on the table and when we can’t finish we just throw them away. On my visit to the students, I saw them eating boiled vegetable and salt. It’s painstaking and I don’t know how to answer myself.”
Humanity is deep down in us and so is Kamnol. Teacher Kamnol has left a message for donors of UNHCR
“I don’t know how long I’m going to be here. I just want to appeal to you to help them. They really need your help. If you can give 5 Baht or 10 Baht, it’ll make a difference.”