On the occasion of International Literacy Day on September 8, UNESCO Bangkok celebrates the inspirational story of a single mother of two, whose pursuit of her dream stands as a testimony to the indefatigable human spirit. The dramatized tribute to Ms Supang and her family explores the transformational power of Lifelong Learning and skills development in a story that is both uniquely Thai and yet speaks to circumstances in every country – and particularly women’s empowerment through education to the benefit of society as a whole.
The beginning of this story is, sadly, all too familiar. Abandoned by her husband, a young woman finds herself solely responsible for two young children, laden with household debt and lacking a basic education certificate. Many families, regardless of origin, will recognize familiar themes in such a story. And so too will they empathize with what happened next.
The mother refused to give up. She dug deep. She planned for her future. Starting with a small food business and struggling with multiple jobs, Ms Supang was determined to do better for herself and her young family. When she saw her chance – an advertisement for Non-Formal Education – she was on the start of her new journey.
This year’s theme of International Literacy Day focusing on ‘Literacy and skills development’ refers to more than just basic literacy, but also the opportunity for Lifelong Learning that transcends age or education level. In Ms Supang’s case, she only realized her calling to the legal profession at the age of 30.
The message behind such a story is clear. As the drama narrates: ‘Non-Formal Education might not be mainstream education and many people might overlook it. You might even look down on yourself, but believe me, learning will never look down on you.’
UNESCO Bangkok has been promoting lifelong learning and Non-Formal Education through community learning centers for disadvantaged children, youth and adults for the last 30 years. We have supported governments in the Asia-Pacific region to develop a comprehensive policy framework, produce capacities and technical materials, pilot innovative programmes and conduct research. UNESCO Bangkok functions as a regional hub to connect all relevant organizations including NGOs, universities and civil-society organizations.
This story, told in a dramatized medium but based on the family’s true story, illustrates the life-changing potential of Non-Formal Education, validated by Ms Supang’s graduation and her eventual role in turn helping the less fortunate. She is an inspiration for her children, her community and indeed for the rest of us.