The school term break during the month of October was quite busy for teachers and many of the students at our Half Day School. Over the course of three different training sessions, participants learned how to manage the school’s recently initiated radio broadcast program and increased their awareness of social problems which directly affect many of the young people throughout the Mekhong Subregion. While some recreational activities lightened the mood surrounding serious issues, students gained crucial information about the real and ever-present dangers to their physical safety and well-being which are inherent to the local community and region, and about the causes and consequences of human trafficking and the exploitation of child labor.
The “Camp for Increasing Life Skills” on the 8th, 9th, and 10th of October served fifty-five students on site at the Half Day School. Specific topic discussions engaged the children on day one to learn more about themselves and their individual rights, their role within traditional and alternative family structures, and their place within the larger community and social framework. The second day was highlighted by an educational hike through a protected forest park nearby the Half Day School. All cooperated to pack supplies and food in the morning before setting off, and after a variety of fun orienteering activities along the way and some ninety minutes later, the group reached a natural mountain pool where they picnicked and had a cooling swim. Students then had a chance to listen to a park official speak about nature conservation and environmental hazards. On the camp’s final day, students were given a demonstration by army soldiers who specialize in training canines to search for illicit drugs. They also discussed social problems and dangers related to the trafficking of contraband which is prevalent at border crossings and throughout the Mekhong Subregion. Teachers wrapped up camp activities with a gathering to guide students to reflect on questions about what they learned over the three days.
The Half Day School’s ‘Little DJ’ program was set in motion on the 16thof twenty students in an all-day training conducted by instructors with expertise in socially responsible media programming. The school’s broadcast studio has been home to the Child Voice Radio (CVR) community outreach radio program for the last seven years, and with this training students will be able to host an enhanced series of programs throughout the school day which will also be on air in the surrounding community area. Participants had the opportunity to learn not only the technical side of radio program production, but also to understand important elements of deejaying and public speaking such as self-confidence, appropriate speech techniques, and resourcefulness. Instructors encouraged students to overcome anxiety and shyness when speaking out, to value their own ideas and viewpoints, and to take ownership of input into program content and production. Students then collaborated to create a mind map in summary of all aspects of radio programming and remarked that the training was valuable for both their practical knowledge and personal growth, aside from being great fun and something to look forward to each school day.
Another training session at the Half Day School in October was held over three separate days and focused on the issues of child labor exploitation and human trafficking. A group of thirty-one students joined each day to learn from experienced teachers, to analyze various media sources on the subjects, and to participate in group discussions concerning the causes and consequences of victimization. The first training session concentrated on the definition of exploitative child labor with specific discussion of the difference between working conditions which are healthy and safe and the forms of child labor which are harmful and illegal. Teachers increased students’ awareness of what dangerous situations can be like for exploited children through analysis of documentaries and case studies, and with such examples they also taught students ways to decrease their vulnerability to becoming victims themselves. The second and third days of training combined a review of types of exploitative working conditions as well as in-depth discussion of human trafficking risks for young people in this region and of features of the worldwide network. Teachers guided participants to consider the definition of human trafficking and its multitude of forms, potential situations and dangers faced by victims, and how to identify and evade perpetrators who are endemic to this region in particular. With the close of the final day, students were encouraged to think critically about their social environment and to proactively share their knowledge with friends, family, and community members.
It is with training opportunities like these, provided in addition to the Half Day School’s prevention and protection oriented curriculum, that students continue to build their personal resources – critical thinking skills, practical knowledge, self-confidence, a sense of belonging and self-worth, and the ability to empower their peers and their community. We would like to acknowledge the dedication and hard work of the Half Day School’s full-time faculty members and part-time instructors, whose expertise and training skills are invaluable in the preparation, planning, and execution of these such events which have been proven effective not only in keeping our children safe, but also in nurturing the development from which they will grow into healthy adults and community leaders.
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Director of Mae Sai Projects