Thailand

All Sarasas schools face investigation

All Sarasas schools face investigation

All Sarasas schools face investigation

Outrage over abuse clips prompts action

Parents press for assurances their children are being cared for in a safe environment from the management of Sarasas Witaed Ratchaphruek School in Nonthaburi, following the beating of kindergarteners by their carers. Pattarapong chatpattarasill
Parents press for assurances their children are being cared for in a safe environment from the management of Sarasas Witaed Ratchaphruek School in Nonthaburi, following the beating of kindergarteners by their carers. Pattarapong chatpattarasill

The Office of the Private Education Commission (Opec) has set up a special committee to investigate all 42 Sarasas private schools for more cases of student abuse following an incident at Sarasas Witaed Ratcha­phruek School which provoked outrage among parents and the public.

According to Opec, there have been recent complaints about bullying and inappropriate punishments at 34 Sara­sas schools.

"We have found that Sarasas Witaed Ratchaphruek School also ignored admittance quotas for its English programme. Under the rules, private schools are only allowed to admit 25 students per class for English lessons, but Sarasas Witaed Ratchaphruek School allegedly admitted 34 students per class," said Opec secretary-general Attapon Truektrong.

Last week, several videos were widely shared online showing various occasions on which a teacher is seen assaulting kindergarten 1 pupils at the school. One video obtained from closed-circuit TV in the classroom showed the teacher pushing a girl to the floor and pulling her hair in the presence of teaching assistants who failed to intervene. Angry parents went to the school and confronted the teacher in the videos, identified as Ornuma "Khru Jum" Plodprong, on Sept 25.

The school expressed regret and said it would take responsibility. It has fired the teacher and promised to take disciplinary action against other staff involved. School officials have met the pa­rents and are providing assistance to families taking legal action against Ms Ornuma.

Mr Attapon said Opec will work with the Department of Mental Health and send psychiatrists to evaluate the children in those classes. Moreover, Opec will work closely with the parents to take legal action against staff members who watched the teacher beat the young children but did nothing to stop it, he said.

Mr Attapon said he was told by the school executives that teachers and staff involved have all been fired. Ms Ornuma had no teaching licence, but the school hired her anyway. Opec has now asked all Sarasas schools to allow parents access to classroom CCTV footage and ensure that all teachers have licences issued by the Teachers' Council of Thailand.

Sarasas Affiliated Schools chairman Pibul Yongkamol, head of the board which governs the schools, said the schools have no policy of punishing students. The schools told their teachers to teach their students with love and care. Mr Pibul said he had always told the directors to work in their offices just two hours a day and spend the rest of their time walking around the schools and inspecting them.

Meanwhile, a 25-year-old Filipino teacher Orejola Marvin Liwanag on Monday reported to Nonthaburi police after being accused of physically abusing kindergarten pupils at the school. Pol Lt Col Thitiwat Ruechanukul, deputy chief of Nonthaburi Immigration police, said Mr Liwanag denied the allegations but has been charged with teaching without a work permit. A group of more than 200 parents on Monday turned up at the school demanding to watch more CCTV footage to make sure their own children had not been abused.

The mother of one boy said she noticed her son had become frightened of one of his teachers and she wanted to find out why.

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A special committee will investigate 42 Sarasas private schools for more cases of student abuse following an incident at Sarasas Witaed Ratcha­phruek School.

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