School Holds Class in Tents After Losing Funds in Pandemic

Makeshift classrooms at Ban Ta Puan Sang Saeng on July 13, 2020.
Makeshift classrooms at Ban Ta Puan Sang Saeng on July 13, 2020.

MAHA SARAKHAM — Students in the northeastern province of Maha Sarakham on Monday had to take their lessons in tents after their school’s funds were slashed due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

The makeshift classrooms were set up at Ban Ta Puan Sang Saeng, where director Vorawit Mitrawong said the school had previously demolished the 44-year-old wooden building to clear the way for a new one, but the budget for it was suspended amid the ongoing health crisis.

“The old building was built in 1976 and it was infested with termites,” Vorawit said. “We began knocking it down after a portion of the fund had been allocated to the school. However, the budget was later suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak. There’s not enough classrooms, so we have to use tents as a preliminary solution.”

There is nothing else apart from nine desks per “classroom,” and students in different classes have to sit back-to-back with each other. Teachers have to instruct students out loud since there’s no blackboard they could use.

Vorawit said students have to rotate between the tents and another building, where the school’s library and science lab are located. Seventeen students had since quit and moved to another school because their parents were concerned about the learning conditions, he added.

“I ask the government to allocate an emergency budget to help the school finish the building,” Vorawit said. “I understand that the money is used for COVID-19, but this is also an urgent situation.”

Local education administrator Chamnong Sudadeth declined to comment on the matter, saying that he “doesn’t want it to be in the news.”

Ban Ta Puan Sang Saeng School is attended by about 300 students from kindergarten to Matthayom 3. It is staffed by 18 teachers.

Although education received the highest portion of each year’s national budget among all other ministries, advocates said many rural schools and teachers’ salaries remain underfunded.

Teachers point at the ruins of the old building.
Teachers point at the ruins of the old building.