Wat Fa Wiang Inn Temple
Watfawianginn is a temple which situated along the Thai-Burma Border. This temple was rebuilt by Zao Korn Zurng, a respected Shan leader, in 1968. It is located in Lak Taeng Village, Piang Luang Sub-District, Wiang Haeng District, Chiangmai Province, Thailand.
At that time, Watfawianginn provided an education for hundreds of students, thanks to the support of Zao Korn Zurng. He was also a patron of the temple, leading the villagers to the temple to practice Buddhism as well as for Shan cultural events.
However, life suddenly changed after the MTA (Mong Tai Army) surrendered to the Burmese military junta, the State Peace and Development Council or SPDC in 1996. The Burmese military seized control of the area, unleashing widespread abuses against the Shan villagers in the area, and drew a borderline, one which literally cut the temple in half. Most of the Shan villagers fled to the Thai side. The school was forced to close, the students scattered to seek their fortunes elsewhere.
Then, in 1997, Ajarn Kri Sorn re-started the school in 1997. “I was amongst the first group of children to attend. At that time I really didn’t have a chance to go to school. My parents stayed on the other side of Watfawianginn [now on the Burma side, a Burmese army camp] and they didn’t have a school. It was difficult as my sister, brother, and I had to come across to the Thai side, in Lak Taeng Village, to come to school. My parents had no money to send three of us to go to study anywhere else. I initially ordained as a novice, enabling me to study here. Every time I remembered this, I felt very sad and cry,” Noom Hkurh said.
Watfawiainginn is providing housing and education for :
Children from impoverished families, who are unable to feed them or send them to school, and orphans who have no family to take care for them. Many attending the school are also children whose parents work as day laborers and don’t have time to take care of them. All are originally from Shan State, from areas without a formal educational system, areas which have witnessed long-standing conflict. If caught by Burmese soldiers, they risk abuse, including torture and forced labor, including as army porters or human minesweepers. Other children were taken away from their families by other armed groups. The school provides a sanctuary where children can pursue a basic education and a better future.
“When I arrived at Watfawianginn about 2 months ago, my mom was dead of sickness in Lai Hka, Southern Shan State. I didn’t know that my mom would be dead soon after I left her,” said Ko Saun, a student.
“My mom is working at a building site in Bangkok; she doesn’t have time for me, she sent me to the temple in Bangkok, and there I can’t study.” Said Min, a student, who later made his way to the school.
Educational program: : .
The main subjects offered at the school include Dharma (Buddhist teachings), Pali/Sanscrit, Shan, Thai, English and Mathematics. Although other subjects such as science, social studies, and geography are informally worked into the educational program, there is no formal teaching in subjects beyond these main offerings owing to financial limitations and lack of personnel to help teach.
Life at the School
The children live at the school, sleeping together in one narrow bedroom. Breakfast usually consists of curry, usually shared between students, who receive two meals a day. Like other undocumented migrants in the area, when the students are sick, maybe they can get care at a local clinic; most of the time, they are cared for informally at the monastery. Almost all are far away from their parents and have to rely on themselves, performing their own chores, including washing their own laundry, doing their dishes, cooking, cleaning. Although the teachers try as best they can to fill this void, it is not possible to become a parent to so many children.
The teachers themselves also face difficulty. As the school has little financial means to support teachers’ salaries, they are working almost as volunteers. They choose to stay to help the children, rather than, as most migrants have, leave the border for cities deeper inside Thailand and its allure of higher pay.
Caring for the children is difficult. Most are very young, forced to quickly grow up in surroundings bereft of what is frequently taken for granted: adequate clothing and blankets against the cold, school supplies, toys, food, parents. The school hopes to provide them with a safe haven and a brighter future.
We are glad to see children can smile. Though, they are far away from parents.
We are not only teachers, we are friends, we are as parents, and taking care these children all the most things we can make them happy. We try hard for them to have a good life when they grow up in the future.
Wat Fa Wiang Inn School
Watfawianginn School is located in Wiang Haeng District, Chiang Mai Province, Thailand, along the Thai-Burma Border. It is located on the premises of a monastery and provides basic education for orphans and children of impoverished families, who otherwise would lack a chance to study in official schools.
Watfawianginn School was founded by Ajarn Krisorn in 1997. He has started this school at Watfawianginn when he noticed that there were many children in the area who were forced to work, mainly in agriculture, in order to survive. Their families were unable to afford to send them to school.
The school was set up with the following aims:
- To provide children with a place to study
- To provide discipline for the children
- To help keep children away from drugs
- To equip them will skills and knowledge so that they can help themselves in the future, give back to their communities, and not be easily exploited
The monastery simply provides the buildings used as classrooms, as finding adequate infrastructure is difficult and the school cannot afford to pay for land or buildings. And, since most of the children are stateless and lack legal status, they are at risk for arrest. The temple provides the children with temporary protections, allowing them to pursue an education uninterrupted.
In1997, the school started with two teachers and 26 students, later increasing to 5 teachers and 43 students. The subjects offered include Shan, Thai, Mathematics, Dhamma, and Pali-Sanskrit. In 2005, the school also added English to the curriculum. We currently have 7 teachers, 4 monks, 3 lay people, and over 70 students, attending 4 classes (2 primary classes and grades 1 and 2). Although the school’s educational offerings are much less than that of official educational institutions, largely a result of funding constraints, the basic education the school provides has enabled several graduates to further their education in Bangkok.
The school is currently supported by SWAN (Shan Women’s Action Network) and TDH- Germany (Terre Des Hommes), providing funding support mainly for stationeries and some food. However, this support is increasingly inadequate as more children seek to attend, straining the school’s already limited budget.
Wat Fa Wiang Inn School