Our Rimklongwatsaphan Kindergarten, one of eight preschools we operate in Klong Toey, is a modest wood-frame schoolhouse located right next to a canal, about 200 meters from the Slaughterhouse. It may not look like much, but in the past twenty years, over 1,000 slum children have graduated from this head-start Mercy Preschool in preparation for government primary schools. These are children who might never have gone to school or learned to read and write their names. On its 20th anniversary, we held a grand celebration. (Photo gallery here.)
The children, including several recent graduates, performed in song, dance, drums, horns, and even Hula-hoops.The very first graduates of Rimklongwatsaphan Preschool, now enrolled in university and college, spoke about learning their first lessons at this preschool.
Kru Sunee and Kru Jamnien, two of Klong Toey’s greatest teachers and pioneers in slum education, joined in the celebration and warmly congratulated the community and its preschool teachers.
Father Joe, who lived in this neighborhood as the Parish Priest for 30 years, thanked the community, its leaders, and its teachers; and exhorted the children, as he always does, telling them that no matter what, they must stay in school. And then he asked the children, several different ways, if you’re hungry or if you’re tired or if your neighborhood walkways are flooded or your father is a drunk or whatever the circumstances, no matter how horrible, what do you do?
And the children shouted out the answer to each of his questions, as they always do, “GO TO SCHOOL.”
Finally, perhaps best of all, the school children shared in a giant birthday cake.