THAILAND- Each year, Thai kids can fully celebrate their childhood on only one day - the second Saturday of the year - which this year falls on January 11.
This year is special. Thanks to the prolonged anti-government protest, the Rajdamnoen rally site will become another entertainment venue for the children, aside from major venues in Bangkok - chiefly the Government House and the Parliament building.
Also, thanks to the prolonged protest, Thai kids are being given a new lesson in democracy.
At present, there are activities at schools for children of all ages, starting when they are in Prathom 1 (Grade 1). In the Office of Basic Education's teacher manual, 14 activities are suggested to promote understanding in democracy at three levels - family, school and community - among children in Prathom 1-3 (Grade 1-3). More activities are suggested for children up to Matthayom 6 (Grade 12).
Activities for the young students include a session to train them how to solve conflict through listening and peaceful communications. Children will be trained to see the merits of rules and social norms. They are taking "leader" and "follower" roles and participating in activities in their communities. Overall, they are given civic education - to learn their basic rights and duties.
I recalled the day when we elected the class leader. It was chaotic, with kids raising their hands for several candidates. It took some time before we learnt that we could vote for only one candidate.
At the cafeteria, we queued up for food, to learn the meaning of "first-come, first-serve" regardless of student seniority.
A teacher of Social Studies for junior-secondary students in Pathum Thani said she had decided not to mention Thailand's ongoing political conflict in class because she was not sure how students would interpret her words about it at home. She was worried that if the students referred to what she talked about in class to their parents, she and her school could get into trouble.
Despite well-designed courses, we as students learn there is no such thing as equality in Thai society. At school, particularly in the provinces, some students are not punished for breaking rules if their parents are the school's main patrons or influential figures in the provinces.