UNESCO Bangkok and partners deliver face masks to marginalized children along the Thailand-Myanmar border for safe school reopening
On 7 February 2022, UNESCO Bangkok, together with Iris Ohyama (Thailand) and Tak Primary Educational Service Area Office 2 (Tak PESAO 2) of the Thailand Ministry of Education, organized the donation by Iris Ohyama (Thailand) of 570,000 disposable face masks for children to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Thailand-Myanmar border.
Iris Ohyama (Thailand) masks are being distributed to 75 Thai public schools and migrant learning centres (MLCs) in the most pandemic-affected areas of Tak’s border districts, namely, Mae Sot, Mae Ramad, Phob Phra, Tha Song Yang and Um Phang. Children’s access to disposable face masks is extremely limited, especially among migrant students in the MLCs. This donation and delivery of masks will help protect students from COVID-19, allowing them to attend school or remain in the pandemic area more safely. At least 9,500 students aged 4 to 12, from Kindergarten to Grade 6 will benefit from the donated masks.
Mr Yoshiki Mori, Managing Director of Iris Ohyama (Thailand) stated, ‘Our office in Thailand was established in 2020 and is our first sales office in Asia. We have been producing face masks for more than 15 years…We sincerely hope that our contribution of face masks will be able to help children to go back to school safely and return to living a normal life soon.’
Mr Pilat Udomwong, Director of Tak Educational Service Area Office 2, mentioned, ‘Tak PESAO 2 is responsible for the education promotion for all children in five border districts in Tak province. We are pleased to coordinate with all schools and MLCs to deliver the masks to 3,530 students in Thai schools and 5,970 MLC’s students who are in need’. Representing Thai schools and MLCs in Mae Sot at the ceremony were Mr Kichsanapon Chalermvisutkul, Director of Ban Tha Art School, and Ms Anchara Rakchaorai, of Avoda MLC in Mae Sot. Mr Chalermvisutkul commented, ‘Face masks are the most needed protective equipment for children returning to school’. Both warmly thanked Iris Ohyama (Thailand) for the timely and generous donation.
Despite the challenging situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, as of 10 February, 80 Thai public schools in Tak’s five border districts have made efforts to resume on-site classes, while another 79 schools continue to manage teaching remotely. However, all 66 MLCs remain closed. Learning has been organized by MLC teachers by means of ad-hoc video calls and online classes, with the support of regional NGOs and coordination provided by the Migrant Education Coordination Centre (MECC) of Tak PESAO 2. UNESCO Bangkok’s ‘LearnBig’ platform also provides MLC’s access to learning materials and textbooks.
Mr Ichiro Miyazawa, Head of UNESCO Yangon Office a.i., and Programme Specialist of UNESCO Bangkok, noted in his remarks, ‘During the COVID-19 pandemic, more disadvantaged children and migrant children have lost their opportunities to go to school. As we need to fulfill the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all children, we highly appreciate the efforts of the Thai government through the MECC to support disadvantaged children, migrant, and ethnic minority children, both in Thai schools and MLCs in Tak province. I would like to thank Iris Ohyama (Thailand) for their support and look forward to more collaboration in the future’.
Through joint collaboration with the MECC, NGOs, and the private sector, UNESCO Bangkok will continue its efforts to ensure that continuing and flexible education is delivered amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic's onset in 2020, the need to equip students along the Thailand-Myanmar border with access to ICT devices, the internet and teacher’s support persists, and multi-sectoral partnership is critically needed more than ever.
Photo credit: Migrant Educational Coordination Center