Thai Salesian schools look beyond grades
Christian values, social action as important as good academic education
Salesian schools realized the inadequacy of an education system that focused only on preparing students to get good grades and enter prestigious universities, explained Father Noppadol Joseph, chaplain of the students affairs department of Sarasit Pittayalai School in Ratchaburi, west of Bangkok.
That is why each of the seven Salesian-run schools in Thailand recently started "Students Volunteer Projects."
As part of the projects, students and parents donate materials to poor children and physically help to build facilities in poor government-run schools.
“This is a long-term project with activities over the whole school year. We have donation campaigns in which our students donate their used clothes, sports equipment and books to children in remote areas of our province,” said Father Joseph.
Older students also help to build canteens, libraries and other school facilities.
“In 2010, our students gave all the money they raised through their Christmas program to Pumuangratbamrung (government) school for its free lunch program,” Father Joseph said.
Pitch Pongpanich, a Grade 12 Buddhist student, said such activities “opened my eyes to the difficulties many poor students face.”
He said he is glad to be able to contribute in a small way and promised to continue this spirit after he leaves school.
Another Salesian-run school -- Saengthong Wittaya School in Hadyai, southern Thailand –- last year collected money and school materials for children affected by the 2004 tsunami in Phang Nga province, said school director Father Puvanas Kitsawat.
He added that his school also plans more action during the April school holidays to build solidarity between his students and tsunami-affected children and young people.
Students “will learn to love and give unconditionally,” Father Kitsawat hopes.
Father Thepparat Pitisan, head of the Thai Salesians, added that “our congregation has a clear policy to encourage our students to contribute to society.”
He noted that Salesian schools give students of all religions the opportunity to encounter vulnerable people and learn from them while supporting them in whatever way they are able.
“We want to inculcate values and morality in young people. This is what current society really needs,” he said.
The Salesians of Don Bosco, a worldwide Catholic congregation founded in the 19th Century in Italy, primarily ministers to poor and vulnerable youths.
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