Disability and education. Somehow these two issues don’t blend well in Thailand. Whether its because of the lack of priority in the junta’s agenda or perhaps the military-dominated national legislative assembly is preoccupied with its political cleansing. Either way parents of children with disabilities are caught in a labyrinth of endless bureaucracy, and often surrender to their fate of loss, and shame.
Thailand is not without laws that enshrine the rights of people with disability. The country has the Persons with Disabilities’ Quality of Life Promotion Act 2008 and Persons with Disabilities Education Act 2008. On top of that, The Declaration on Rights for People with Disabilities in Thailand (3 December 1998), approved and signed by the government then, is a ‘pledge’ made by the people of Thailand to persons with disabilities. But what of the impact on the community now, under martial law, and how has all these references in the provision of services benefited people with disabilities?
Social protection mechanism, depending on the province and the relevant authorities, seems to be at a standstill. Thai parents often ask me about special education for their special children. As mental health is rarely discussed, and not a trendy topic among the mainstream, for example children with learning disabilities, such as ADHD, have no where to study. Despite the laws and policies affecting children and their right to education, disability is apparently not part of the equation.
How many special schools are there in Thailand, and are they accessible to the children with disabilities?
Based on my queries and discussions with some schools, the focus is the integration of special students with “normal” children. I view this odd as its common for schools to not have sufficient resources to implement special education or they lack the proficiency to teach in the specialised curriculum. Thus I feel the alternative is for the administrators to integrate. There are no indicators of successes with this approach, and within the present education system. There are many parents who tell me that their children are bullied by the “normal” students, and the teachers are unable to help the child cope.
Then there is the matter of children with disabilities from families that are stateless, migrants and refugees. What of their right to education and career prospects?
Children with disabilities want to be part and parcel of society, to be productive for themselves and others. Rather than dismantling barriers affecting them and their parents, Thailand holds firmly to the clueless belief, or simply to avoid talking about it. I find it difficult to meet someone who has the answer, that would perhaps enable children with disabilities to embrace empowerment.