Young Thais from southern provinces showcase creative solutions to life’s problems
Generation Unlimited 2020
“People surrounding me often saw me as troubled and sinful when I was younger – they thought that I liked skipping class to do the wrong things. Actually, I just enjoyed participating in activities. I was an activity person, so I sometimes missed class. That kind of attitude that people perceived of me made me feel like I was a real trouble maker – at a certain point, I was thinking about quitting school,” said Hafiz Labinla, a fourth-year student at Yala Rajabhat University, about confusion during his childhood when he was making up his mind on continuing to study in high school.
Fortunately, not long after this time of confusion, Hafiz met a senior college student in his community who heard him out and gave him useful advice, which helped him find his path and decide to continue his education. Such a life-changing experience inspired Hafiz to step up and start a counselling programme for children and adolescents who are facing problems and thinking of quitting school.
Labinla and his friends from different universities created a team, HBD 2U, to kickstart the Go2Goals project and address the problem of students dropping out of school. The team members worked in collaboration with school counsellors and travelled to schools to provide guidance for teenagers. The team was selected as one of five finalists in the first stage of Thailand’s Generation Unlimited (Gen-U) 2020 Youth Challenge. At the final stage, which was organized in Pattani province in early August, HBD 2U was selected as one of two winning teams from Thailand and will move on to compete globally with other teams from around the world.
UNICEF with partners launched Gen-U to unleash the creativity of young people all over the world for designing solutions to the issues that they face in their daily lives. It serves as a global platform for identifying and scaling up solutions for young people to help them get the skills, education and employment they need to succeed in today’s world. The Gen-U initiative has also proved to be an excellent platform for engaging with both the public and private sectors in promoting young people’s empowerment.
Mahura Yuzo, HBD 2U team member, spoke about the Go2Goals project, “In the beginning, we started identifying students’ main reasons for leaving education. After a few field visits to provide guidance for schoolchildren, we found that many of the causes revolved around their attitudes and problems within the family. We feel that some of their attitudes can be changed. Most of the children in the lower secondary level tend to be self-centred, barely hearing anybody around them except for their friends. We also found that schoolchildren are facing family problems, and failing at studying makes them feel insecure and not want to remain in education. Our project [therefore] focuses on helping children who are at risk of leaving education.”
“From the field visits to schools, the team members met children and invited them to talk about and share the issues they have been facing. We also communicate with those children through the Facebook page, Go2Goals, to provide counselling services. The weekly activities are updated on the Go2Goals page regularly, and the content is mainly about learning, psychology and self-development. We also host a live-streaming session every week on the page, in which professional guests from all walks of life are invited to join the conversation. Our team members provide answers to questions submitted by children. The main objective is to inspire schoolchildren so that they can have a goal in life.”
Muallim is another winning team that presented DAWN, a snakes and ladders board game to help reduce bullying among schoolchildren. The board game is designed to educate primary school children about bullying and nurture their empathy to one another.
Nisma Khodaeh, a third-year student at the Faculty of Education in the Prince of Songkla University in the Pattani Campus, shared an experience that she witnessed when she was younger which inspired her to come up with the board game idea. “When I was in primary school, I had a very outgoing and lively friend. Volleyball was her favourite hobby. One day, she got an arm injury from a firework accident and could no longer play volleyball. As the days went by, she had been verbally bullied with a specific [harmful] word and became depressed. She completely lost all her self-confidence. I feel that it’s very tough to face such a situation. The thought of solving the problem always came to my mind. Besides, the forms of bullying in the southernmost provinces vary from other areas of the country. Another case resulted from a violent situation. One of my friends lost her father from a shooting. She was then joked about for not having a father – that was painful for her. After I heard about the Gen-U challenge, I immediately took up the opportunity to make a change.”
Khodaeh also noted, “We decided to focus on children of primary school age as they are like the roots of a tree. Good behaviour can be nurtured during these early years. Most of the board games available on the market right now are quite complex for children in this age range, so we apply it to the classic snakes and ladders game, making it easier to play. Participants can be in different positions – bullying others, being bullied and a helper or a hero. The DAWN board game sets up various situations, which encourage children to identify if the situation is considered bullying and brainstorm on how they can respond to it. For instance, the ones getting bullied will be voicing their opinions and giving suggestions on how to respond. If they have no idea about how to tackle the situation, they are able to summon help by picking up a Hero card. The game also questions the witnesses to the situation on how they can provide support.”
Regarding the implementation of the project, the team has started working with two major partners, including TK Park and Assalam Smart School Association of Thailand (ASSA). ASSA will support the dissemination of the board game in more than 60 schools in its network.
Vilasa Phongsathorn (Fah), Adolescent Development Programme Officer at UNICEF Thailand said, “The Gen-U 2020 Youth Challenge is organized to encourage youth aged 14-24 to be a part of solving problems that they face in their lives. This year, we focused on youth in the Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla provinces. UNICEF, UNDP and Saturday School Foundation are together organizing the challenge with the aim of highlighting the Sustainable Development Goals. Since the beginning of the application process in February, 466 youth from 110 teams applied and 15 teams were selected for the incubation round. All teams aim to solve problems that they face in their lives, such as dropping out of school, unemployment, teenage pregnancy, mental health, gender equality, sex education and the environment. Every team has taken the opportunity to improve their project through the workshop, bootcamp activities and guidance from mentors. They learned about problem-solving approaches by applying the method of Human Centred Design.”
Five teams with the most promising solutions were selected to progress to the next round and were awarded US$1,000 (31,560 baht) to develop prototypes and test their projects in their communities. Every project centres on an issue faced by children and young people in their communities. In addition to the problems of children dropping out of school and being bullied that were addressed by the two winning teams, the three other teams shed light on biased attitudes among schoolchildren in the classroom, a lack of education continuity and a lack of employment opportunities for young people in conflict with the law.
The two winning teams, HBD 2U and Muallim, have now submitted their ideas on the global stage, where they will compete with youth from 41 countries. The US$20,000 (630,159 baht) prize will be awarded to the winning teams to further develop their projects and make their idea a reality.
Meet the two other finalists
Muhammadharis Jiman, an 11th-grade student at Thamavitya Mulniti school in Yala province and a member of the Believe in Equality team, noted that although the team didn’t manage to progress further in the challenge, they were proud to present the BE card game to help resolve biases and misunderstandings in the classroom and promote the freedom of expression.
Jiman said, “Students in the classroom tend to form groups. Many attentive students do not dare to fully share their opinions. Many times, when we voice our opinions, there are side eyes from classmates staring at us. We feel unsafe speaking up, sharing ideas or asking questions. Schools are supposed to be a safe haven regarding self-expression and sharing opinions, but in reality, it’s not like that for many students. So we came up with a learning approach through a card game, offering a set of trending topics like bullying. A sudden change in players’ behaviours might not be expected right after the game, but players will get to improve their thoughts and attitudes little by little. Eventually, it will lead to behavioural change among children.”
The card game is designed to promote understanding, empathy and respect among children and encourage everyone to exercise their right to express themselves without being shut down. Players write down a topic they want to discuss on post-it notes before receiving a card. There are three sets of cards which designate different roles – Speak, Comment and Free, the latter meaning the player can choose to either comment or listen. The participants have to play according to their assigned roles. “Classmates dare to speak up more than usual during the game. It’s a space for children to express themselves and share opinions, as well as to hear the voices of one another. Players will get to understand other people and themselves,” added Jiman.
The Olivia team presented an online learning website, Foreign Child Labour Course - Massive Online Open Course (FFLC-MOOC), to address discontinuity in education and promote literacy in language and communication among Myanmar and Cambodian children in migrant communities.
Tanakrit Sornklan (Nino), an 11th-grade student at the Islamic Sciences Demonstration school, said, “I once participated in a school field visit to the Migrant Learning Centre located in Ban Laem Nok village in Pattani province. A prominent problem that we noticed is that the children there don’t get to learn Thai or even their mother-tongue language. After that, we formed a team and visited the centre again to learn more about the ongoing issue. While we were finding ways to help children learn languages, discontinuity in learning was another problem that we discovered. Migrant children have to follow their parents to another place after the parents’ job contracts end. We then created an E-learning website called FCLC-MOOC, focusing on migrant children aged 7-15. The website offers children Science and English subjects available in both the Myanmar and Cambodian languages. The website also includes examinations, games, news articles and advice on further studies.”