Economic and child development go hand in hand
By Natthinee Rodraksa
KRABI, October 2005 – Three-year-old Mutita escaped the tsunami. She clung to her father’s neck as he and her mother fled to safety. But none of them could escape the tidal wave’s devastating economic consequences.
The waves swept away their home, fishing boat and even the small grocery shop they operated on Phi Phi Island.
Mutita’s mother, 31-year-old Pranee Wankama, says they now earn only half of what they did before – and they are struggling just to make ends meet. “Now my husband and I both have to work long hours in a rubber plantation, which means we have less time to care for the children,” she says sadly.
The economic plight of Mutita’s and other families makes the rebuilding of the island’s child development centres a vital part of recovery. As well as providing young children with the stimulation they need for full mental and physical development, these centres offer a safe place for parents to leave their children while they work – or while they sleep after a long night tapping rubber.
UNICEF has helped reconstruct two child development centres on the island, as well as three others in Krabi’s Nue Klong district. One of these is the Koh Sriboya Child Development Center, whose construction also provided employment to the island’s masons and labourers.
Little Mutita, who attends the centre while her parents are at work, likes it because “it’s big” and “has more toys” than the previous school, which used to be housed in a dilapidated wooden shed.
Naree Kongderm, a caregiver at the centre, says that in addition to providing children and parents affected by the tsunami with a sense of security and a feeling of optimism for the future, the centre is also generating a great deal of interest in early childhood development activities among all the island’s parents.
Mutita’s mother agrees. She is delighted that the centre is helping her daughter to develop the skills she will need once she starts primary school, and that she has lots of friends to play with.
The centre has also “helped ease our burden of taking care of our daughter during the day,” says Pranee. This allows her and her husband to concentrate on improving the family’s economic situation. With this extra help, Pranee is hopeful that her family will back soon be back on its economic feet.