Rural Pupil Who Braves Scorching Sun for Internet Signal Goes Viral

Sirilak Ritbua in her study spot in a field on Jan. 25, 2021, in Prachuap Khiri Khan province.

PRACHUAP KHIRI KHAN — To attend her online classes, high schooler Sirilak Ritbua had to stake a clear spot in a field, armed with only an umbrella against the relentless heat, for the internet signal.

Her daily ordeal went viral over the weekend after a teacher at Hua Hin School went around visiting students and found Sirilak, 18, studying under the sun. Her house has no mobile or internet signal. The field is the only place she can catch some signal, and even then, it’s unstable at times.

The teacher then posted photos of her and wrote that Sirilak’s diligence was admirable. Schools remain closed in 28 provinces since the shutdown was announced in early January amid a second wave of COVID-19 outbreak.

“I’ve told the teacher that sometimes there’s no signal at all, or that it’s so hot outside that I can’t attend class,” Sirilak told reporters. Her younger brother also has to go outside in an attempt to get an internet signal.

Sympathy poured in from around the country. Predictably, local education and state telecomm officials also rushed into the spotlight on Monday to lend a hand. They installed a six-meter Wifi signal booster for Sirilak, who lives in Nong Phlap subdistrict, and gifted her with three tablet computers and some face masks.

Heck, staff from Bangkok Hospital Hua Hin even pitched a tent for her, so she can study under a shade instead of having to hold an umbrella throughout the entire class.

“Thank you for seeing my troubles and determination,” Sirilak said to the officials Monday. “I will study harder, because I have all the materials now.”

But the quick fix by the local authorities drew much mockery from the netizens.

“I saw the picture and thought the Internet people were going to install better signals for her, or make it that she doesn’t have to study outdoors,” wrote Facebook user Beay OvaSoul in a viral post shared more than 20,000 times. “They just pitched a tent so she would get less sun! Good job, you fixed the problem at the source, you dumbass!”

“If you just fix problems on a case-by-case basis like this, how many more centuries will we take to get developed?” wrote Facebook user Pakawat Kerdbanchan.

Facebook user Ya Nakpong chimed in, “Everyone thinks Hua Hin is developed. But only the city area is. In the mountainous areas, they don’t even have electricity.”

Sirilak, a Matthayom 6 scholarship student at Hua Hin School, has a GPA of 3.99 and has dreams of being a doctor. Her father is a motorcycle taxi driver and her mom is a farmhand.

In November, Sirilak appeared on the “Get a Scholarship if You’re Smart” game show and won a 50,000 baht scholarship and an iPad – she would later use it while studying in the lonely field.

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