Today, I received a call from the mother of a blind boy. The boy’s family lives in Srisaked province, hundreds of kilometers away from Bangkok, and he goes to a blind school in Roi-et province under Christian Foundation for the Blind in Thailand (CFBT), which is even further away in the northeast. His mother told me that he is at home as it’s the summer break now. Here is a little chitchat I had with him over the phone, which happens to be the one of the happiest conversation I have ever had in Thailand.
Yoshi: Hi! How are you doing, dear?
Boy: I’m fine.
Yoshi: How’s school?
Boy: Oh, it’s fun!
Yoshi: Are the teachers kind to you?
Boy: Yes, they are kind.
Yoshi: Have you got new friends yet?
Boy: Oh, I have sooo many friends!
Why do I think this was one of the happiest conversation I have had in Thailand?
Well, that’s because this has been his first year at school at the age of twelve, and at one point, we thought we would never be able to get him into education system.
I met him about five years ago when I was an exchange student at Thammasat University. I visited my close friend’s hometown, and this boy’s family happened to be in the same village. My friend took me to his house, hoping that the parents could be convinced to send him to school.
He was very very shy boy, and was always staying at home. He has been to a blind school before, but his family had to take him back as he couldn’t stop crying, missing home. His mother is a lovely person, but she loved him too much, and din’t dare to let him go to boarding school alone.
Previous to that, I had met a professor from Poland, who really puts his passion into education for blind kids, especially in the field of tactile recognition. He kindly gave me something called “Wikki Sticks” which is a kind of soft rubber sticks which sticks onto smooth surface. You can form shapes and letters, and you can recognize them by touching.
So I tried to play with him with bits and pieces of Braille patterns and Wikki Sticks. But to my surprise, he was not at all interested. I soon realized that it was probably because he has never been expose to so much “touching” and “feeling.” I myself enjoy touching various objects around me and explore the world in this way, but obviously, this has been possible since people around me, like family and teachers, have encouraged me to do that.
Then, I really felt the needs for him to start learning in more stimulant setting like school.
Though it took a bit too long than we wanted, his family decided that he was old enough last year, and sent him to the school. And my goodness, how confident he sounded on the phone! It’s quite hard to put it into writing, but he sounded like a different boy. And how happy I was to learn that he now can read and write Braille, and best of all, “have sooo many friends!”
He showed the true power of education to me.
He taught me by himself that going to school absolutely change someone’s life, regardless of different circumstances.
I cannot be more happy for his wonderful start at school, and would love to congratulate his family to make a positive decision for his future.