Khun Mechai – transforming education in Thailand

Khun Mechai with the RS 2010 student steering committee

Khun Mechai with the RS 2010 student steering committee

The Mechai Patana School, also known as The Bamboo School, in Buriram in the North-east of Thailand is an amazing place for learning and community engagement.  In fact Khun Mechai Viravaidya, the founder of the school, likes to refer to the school as a 7Eleven – a ‘hub’ for the community that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.  Khun Mechai has never done things by halves and is one of the leading social entrepreneurs and innovators of education in Thailand today.  Many people knew of Khun Mechai as ‘Mr. Condom,’ the man who spoke out in the 80’s and 90’s about the imminent threat of HIV/AIDS to Thailand and travelled the country promoting the use of contraception and using his ability to use humour and wit to get the message across to the (especially rural) Thai people.  He has rightfully been recognised with numerous awards and global positions for his work on population, development and HIV/AIDS issues as you can see in his short biography below.*

Mechai Patana students who have studied at Regents over the last three years

Mechai Patana students who have studied at Regents over the last three years

Today, though, he is still working hard for the rural disadvantaged and believes education is the key factor to bringing better opportunities and equality to rural communities and the people.  The Bamboo School is a unique and holistic approach to education within a typically rote learning based Thai education system.  His model gives young rural people the chance to learn life skills and the confidence to use them to be successful in life – not just for themselves but also for their families and their communities, ultimately preventing the educated from migrating to the urban centres such as Bangkok.  The Mechai Patana students engage in service learning, work experience, social enterprise initiatives, the interviewing and recruitment of their teachers, financial responsibility, creativity, sustainable thinking and action, etc.  They really are amazing global citizens who are independent learners and succeeding academically.  Khun Mechai has recently formed a partnership with a prestigious Thai university that has recognised that the MPS students are equipped with the learning skills and values to be successful in tertiary education and beyond and has agreed to offer places to every student that graduates from the Bamboo School.

Who is teaching who?

Who is teaching who?

Khun Mechai spoke at the We Walk Together conference in October 2010 and is an inspiring speaker for young people and educators.  I strongly recommend that you visit the Bamboo School in Buriram or in Jomtien (south of Pattaya), even better invite Khun Mechai into your school or workplace – you will not be disappointed.

*Khun Mechai Viravaidya is the Founder and current Chairman of the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), one of Thailand’s largest and most successful private, non-profit, development organizations. Since 1974, PDA has initiated community- based family planning services, innovative poverty reduction programs, large-scale rural development and environmental programs, as well as groundbreaking HIV/AIDS prevention activities throughout Thailand.

Mechai Viravaidya had a pivotal role in Thailand’s hugely successful family planning program, which saw one of the most rapid fertility declines in the modern era. The rate of annual population growth in Thailand declined from over 3% in 1974 to 0.6% in 2005, and the average number of children per family fell from seven to under two. Mechai Viravaidya pioneered and championed many of Thailand’s social mobilization and community development efforts that are now taken for granted. Although much of his time was spent in the NGO sector, Mechai Viravaidya has also served in the Thai government as a Senator, in 1987 and again in 1997, and as a member of the cabinet during 1985-86 and 1991-92. As a Minister to the Office of the Prime Minister for Anand Panyarachun in 1991-92, Mechai Viravaidya was the chief architect in building Thailand’s comprehensive national HIV/AIDS prevention policy and program. This initiative is widely regarded as one of the most outstanding national efforts by any country in combating HIV/AIDS. By 2004, Thailand had experienced a 90% reduction in new HIV infections. In 2005, the World Bank reported that these preventative efforts helped save 7.7 million lives throughout the country and saved the government over US$18 billion in treatment costs alone. In recognition of his efforts Mechai Viravaidya was appointed the UNAIDS Ambassador in 1999.

Apart from his involvement in the government and the NGO sectors, Mechai Viravaidya has business and corporate experience as member of the Board of Directors and Chairman of many major corporations. He also served as trustee on the Board of many Universities and international organizations. For his efforts in various development endeavours, Mechai Viravaidya has been accorded numerous awards and recognitions including: the United Nations Gold Peace Medal (1981), the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service (1994), one of Asiaweek’s “20 Great Asians” (1995), the United Nations Population Award (1997), and one of TIME Magazine’s “Asian Heroes” (2006). More recently, Mechai Viravaidya has been awarded the Nikkei Asia Prize for Regional Growth (2007). Again, PDA and Mechai Viravaidya were the recipients of the Gates Award for Global Health in 2007, and are one of the Skoll Awardees for Social Entrepreneurship in 2008, both of which are awarded with a cash gift of one million US dollars.

 

 

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Baking for global citizenship

Contributed by Brittany Tang

       

I think that any educator would agree that students need a ‘release’ activity, such as: playing a sport, creating art, writing a story, and in my case, baking. With any of these activities there is potential to incorporate Global Citizenship (playing sports for  a cause, creating persuasive art, writing about positive change, ect.). I spent much of my free time leisurely baking for my local community but, over time, my passion for baking helped me to fund-raise for deserving causes (The Make-A-Wish Foundation, Women With A Mission, ect.), show support for community endeavors and ultimately spread happiness. To me, baking is a science. When I bake I concentrate on adding the right proportions of ingredients, heating the oven to the right temperature and giving my food the right duration of time to properly cook. However, I also think of baking as a social science, a way of bringing a community together through the love of great food. One of the most rewarding parts of my ‘release’ activity is sharing a smile with others as they enjoy the baked goods I make. In this way, baking for Global Citizenship is an interesting phenomenon. Depending on the situation, my community purchases my baked goods to raise money for deserving charities and, at the same time,  the treats I bake are a physical manifestation of the happiness I endeavor to spread.

Brittany’s Global Ambassador Award and CAS blog

Why global citizenship scholarships are important

A young Manoj

A young Manoj

Manoj Chapagain is an amazing young man from Nepal.  He came to Regents School Pattaya in 2009 (thanks to Peter Dalglish and Dr. Virachai Techavijit) as a shy Round Square scholar and has just graduated this June from Year 13 with an IB Diploma score of 35 points, a fantastic achievement of personal challenge and academic achievement.  The best aspect of Manoj’s learning journey since leaving his home community and rural school in Nepal has been his enthusiasm and passion to have a go at everything at the same time consistently demonstrate high moral values and politeness to all those he meets and befriends.  To Manoj studying in an international school setting and with core values based upon the Round Square IDEALS has meant that everything has been an opportunity for him and a privilege to embrace and make the most of – which the rest of us often take for granted.  He is the perfect role model for fellow students and educators to have in a school – I only hope that my children have the opportunity to learn with and gain a friend for life like Manoj.  I know for a fact that Manoj’s fellow peers in his year group have gained as much if not more than Manoj himself by having him in their cohort for the last five years. #whoisteachingwho?

Manoj's old school in Nepal

Manoj’s old school in Nepal

Apart from the whole new country, culture, learning through English and having to live in a boarding house experience Manoj’s first major challenge was to speak at the Round Square International Conference hosted by Regents School Pattaya in October 2010 in front of 850 people and HM King Constantine, the President of Round Square. He did this superbly and was one of the most popular speakers of the conference.

We Walk Together

We Walk Together 2010

Having Manoj in the school allowed us to develop a community partnership with his old school in Nepal, something Manoj was very keen to establish. This was achieved through a social enterprise group created by Manoj and his friends called: Project Nepal. The group worked hard to fund raise to buy a number of computers for the school and were able to visit the school with Manoj at the end of June. Further below is a letter and some images from Manoj regarding the project.

To achieve the Global Ambassador Award a young person is required to complete their targets and personal reflections across all 16 Identities but must also commit to continuing to support and stay connected with their school or community beyond graduation as a global citizen.  Manoj has certainly done this and created a legacy that hopefully many younger students (and teachers) will follow and thrive from as they too challenge themselves to become global citizen learners and high achievers.

Who is teaching who?  Joyce and Ellen - part of the Project Nepal team

Who is teaching who? Joyce and Ellen – part of the Project Nepal team

Dear all,

I hope you all are well. I would like to share with you all a summary of a small project that I completed this summer with the help of teachers and students from Regent’s

I asked some of my friends and teachers to help me raise money to buy computers for my village school,where I studied as a little kid.  We came up with name ‘Project Nepal’. This started August of 2013. My friend Joyce and some other friends encouraged me and were willing to support me fully. Thus, We started doing fund raising events such as dodge ball tournament, computer game tournament and many other events at Regents. In addition my friend Joyce who helped me enormously to raise money by asking her friends back in Taiwan to donate money to this project. She has contributed the most to this project.All together we raised 3400 USD. Futhermore, Mr Alex(a friend of Peter’s in Bangkok and my friend too ) contributed 46250 npr to this project,totaling upto 364250 npr

New computers in the Nepalese school

New computers in the Nepalese school

The school already had a room that needed painting,carpeting ,a fan and many other things so when I got back to Nepal in ,I went to the village and started overseeing this.Now the room has 7 computer with UPS from project Nepal and other five computer which was donated to school by a cement factory. The installation for internet is still in the process.

2 weeks ago 5 students from Regents and two teachers visited the school, the computer lab,did an opening ceremony which was fun. . They stayed in my village ,in my home for two nights and it was amazing to see my friends in my village. Everyday we used to walk to the school where my friends used to play games,interact and teach English to the school kids.It was fantastic for me to see students from regents interacting with kids in my village. It felt great because I was part of the village school during my childhood and then I also became a part of Regents family. It almost felt like joining two family togethers. This is the first Project Nepal “PROJECT” and it was successful.

I would like to thank everyone for all their help! I would still like to continue with “Project Nepal” and help many other schools and poor kids in the future.

 Manoj

Mr. Bolland - a Project Nepal team member and also a Global Mentor

Mr. Bolland – a Project Nepal team member and also a Global Mentor