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Northern Thai Woman Fulfills Childhood Dream to Teach, But Without Pay

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PHICHIT –  Panattha Chiewcharn had a childhood dream to be a teacher and she has fulfilled that wish, with only one thing missing — the chance to become a permanent teacher.

Ms Panattha, 23, has taught Thai traditional dance to pupils from kindergarten level to Prathom 6 (Grade 6) at Wat Nong Phai School in Muang district of this northern province for two years – as a volunteer and without a salary.

After majoring in traditional dance she graduated from Naresuan University in Phitsanulok province two years ago, she began looking for a teaching job in her home province of Phichit. She learned that a small school about 15 kilometres from her house needed someone to teach her specialty, but had no budget funding to hire someone.

So she decided to take on the job without pay, instructing the 81 students the Thai traditional art. Her students also have had opportunities perform outside the school.

“I am determined to teach my students to love Thai culture. It is waning due to the influence of Western culture,” she said.

Teachers and parents were impressed by her dedication and pooled their resources, contributing 4,500 baht from their own pockets every month to help with her travel and other expenses. The school also provides her lunch.

“The money is very little, but the happiness I have felt in teaching these students is priceless,” she said.

Miss Pannisa makes sure the students have something to fill their stomaches before she has her lunch with other teachers. (Photo by Sittipoj Kebui)

School director Prayod Fukkong said the school was lucky to have her. It greatly reduced the workload of the seven permanent teachers and staff members in a time of teacher shortages.

“We are lucky to have khru Fah with us,” the principal said, referring to her by her nickname. “Everyday she works like one of us. She does everything, with no hesitation,” he told the Bangkok Post.

Pannisa Pareeta, 11, a Prathom 5 pupil, praised khru Fah for teaching her and her friends how to perform the khon dance, so the school could show their skill at events in the province.

“Khru Fah is very kind. She has an easy way of teaching us to love Thai traditional dance,” the girl said. “I want her to stay with us for a long, long time.”

Ms Panattha has no plan to leave the school, but has another dream to fulfill.

“I hope that one day I will have a chance to be a permanent teacher. When that day comes, I will wear the khaki uniform for my parents. They would be so proud,” she said.

As teachers across the country are honoured on Teachers’ Day every year, Jan 16, the school director had a few special words for her.

“I would like to give her encouragement and our full support. Khru Fah deserves the title of teacher, even though she is only a volunteer,” he said.

By Sittipoj Kebui

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