By Phuriphat Sangkhapat
Several kindergarten students at Sarasas Witaed Ratchaphruek school, Nonthaburi, exhibited nervous signs, not wanting to go to school. Suspecting parents pressured the school for answers. The school refused many times, but then, bowing to pressure, the school released the security camera footage.
Security footage shows teachers and teaching assistants abusing children. From denying water and toilets to pushing, pinching, pulling hair, and stabbing with a pencil. The Ministry of Education Regulation on Student Punishment (2005) only allows warning, suspension, and grade deduction as school punishment.
The main culprit, teaching assistant Ornuma “Kru Jum” Plodprong, denied any wrongdoing. She later confessed but reasoned that stress from her household led to her physically abusing the children.
By law, the school requires a teaching license for all teachers and assistants. Ornuma has worked at the school for seven years without a license. The school reasoned that faculty staff may defer obtaining a license for two years, which means Ornuma has deferred three times.
The other teachers and assistants also do not have a teaching license, while the lone foreign teacher, a Filipino, only has a tourist visa.
Tip of the iceberg
Investigation revealed 12 teachers and assistants involved in the abuse, totaling at least 36 incidents. Meanwhile, only 98 out of 411 faculty staff have a teaching license. The penalty for hiring non-license faculty staff is the closure of the school, according to Deputy Prime Minister Wisanu Krea-ngam.
In various interviews, Piboon Yongkamol, president of the Sarasas Affiliated Schools, said the following:
“They [the parents] keep talking, but all they want is just money.”
“How can the impact [of the abuse] be proven? No one is born an angel; cannot be touched. Think positive. Children should have some bad experiences.”
“Close it [the school] down. I’m not afraid. I can sell the land and make more profit than operate the school.”
“Before applying to the school, why didn’t they ask if the school fits their criteria? If not, why apply? Go study somewhere else. There are many choices. You knew it was expensive, so why attend? Go to a cheap school.”
“They come at me like they are red shirts.”
Due to public pressure, the school has dismissed four teachers. According to the police, Ornuma and other teachers are under investigation and criminal charges could be filed.
Piboon established the Sarasas School in 1964. Currently, the school system has 49 campuses. In 2019, the schools combined for 367.7 million baht in profit.
2018 profit, 267.3 million baht.
2017 profit, 369.9 million baht.
2016 profit, 439.4 million baht.
2015 profit, 425.7 million baht.
2014 profit, 243.2 million baht.