One teacher's dedication to recovery
By Robert Few
PHANG NGA, October 2005 – From bomb site to construction site, Baan Tablamu School in Phang Nga Province has undergone a transformation over the last year. Where there was only rubble, there are now new classrooms, a canteen, a tooth-brushing station and a water purification system. Kids are in class and life is back to normal.
Restoration has been made possible by the assistance of organisations like UNICEF. But credit for Baan Tablamu School’s recovery must go equally to its dedicated staff.
This means teachers like Sirikarn Roojboonthung, who went straight back to work on the day after the tsunami, even though she herself had nearly lost her life in the waves.
“I thought I was going to die,” she recalled. “The water rushed into our house and filled it to the ceiling. I shouted to my son to leave me, but he insisted that if I died, we would die together, and he pulled me out. The next day, my husband said, ‘There’s no point in worrying about your school – it’s all gone. If you don’t believe me, go take a look.’
“He was right. All the buildings had been devastated. I was devastated, too.”
But Sirikarn hid her own grief and focussed on getting the children back into school so that they could continue their education in temporary shelters or under the trees. At first, only a few turned up. But by returning to the classroom herself, Sirikarn showed worried parents that they needn’t be afraid to send their children.
“The parents would come to ask if it was safe,” she said, “and I would say, ‘Sure – look – the teachers are here.’”
Now all the children are back – and in a school environment that is better than it was before. “The new school is much less rustic,” says Sirikarn. “So I tell the children they must improve, too. They cannot be lazy like before. The support we have received has really encouraged us and it is an opportunity to develop – to advance into the future.”