09 July 2005

Note to Self...

Next time I'm bemoaning my working conditions, perhaps I should be thinking of teachers in Thailand. An article in Wednesday's New York Times (id: bugmenot2005; password: june2005) begins with "On the weekends now, the military firing range here is crowded with teachers - in shifts of 50 - trying out their pistols, an essential new accessory in a place where teaching school has become one of the most dangerous professions." Things go downhill from there.

On school days, car pools gather at 8 a.m. at the old Esso station in Yala and then head out to join guarded convoys into the countryside. The teachers are in their track suits, loose clothes and sneakers, ready to run if they have to. "This the teacher's life," Ms. Duangporn said, as she did several times through the day. "We don't go anywhere alone. If I have to leave school during the day, I can call a military officer to escort me." Some teachers have been killed when they decided to run an errand without a military escort. Teachers and their escorts have been wounded together by roadside bombs. When the school day is over at 3 p.m. and the military guards withdraw, nobody lingers, neither teachers nor children. Extracurricular activities have disappeared, along with much of the daily life of the south.

These events have come about due to "a long-simmering separatist movement in this former Malay sultanate lies at the heart of the violence, hand in hand with resentment at discrimination against Muslims and attempts at forced assimilation by the government."

A friend I am seeing later today had an opportunity to teach in Thailand next year. And even though he would have been well cocooned within the realm of the International School, I am relieved that he and his wife have chosen a school in China.

I have to wonder how long I'd remain a teacher if I had to do my job under the conditions described in the NYT article. Are you willing to possibly sacrifice your life in order to teach kids to read and write?

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