BANGKOK - Even though many people associate police stations with crime and punishment, cops at a station in Bangkok are doing something very different - they are instilling a love for learning among youngsters.
At a room in the precinct, modified as a classroom, some 50 kids between the ages of six and 14, were seen paying close attention to everything their volunteer teacher was saying, later singing and dancing in time to a ditty in the English language.
In a bid to help working parents who have no time to watch over their pre-teens during the summer break, the Buppharam Police Station in Thon Buri came up with a project called "Leave Your Children in the Care of Police". The project, running from April 1-25, is free for all and even includes free lunch.
Buppharam superintendent Pol Colonel Yutthana Pooncharas said the project was initiated by local police officers and community leaders after Metropolitan Police Bureau's Division 8 chief Pol Maj-General Rasadakorn Yingyong came up with the idea to help to protect children from vice, especially drugs.
Under the project, children are taught academic subjects in the mornings, such as English and Thai languages and history, while afternoons are spent on things such as lessons on self-defence, social etiquette and field trips, he said.
Yutthana added that parents could go to work without worry, in the knowledge that their children were being watched over by police officers. He said the project, which is in its second week, has so far received good feedback from parents and children. He said many parents had even said that their children were behaving better thanks to the project.
A parent in his 40s, Saengthong Klangchaisri, said the project was very good and constructive as the children were taught to protect themselves, while also helping them revise their academic subjects.
"If the police had not come up with this project, the children would not have anything constructive to do and might end up getting misled by ill-intentioned people. I don't have much time to spend with my children as I'm always working," he added.
Another parent Arporn Vieaksiam, 46, said her son woke up early every day so he could attend the project, adding that this was so different from forcing him to wake up to go to school. She added that this project should expand to other communities nationwide so the safety of all children can be ensured during summer vacations.
Fifth grader Wipharat Kolachart said she was having a lot of fun at the police station because she could play and learn at the same time. Also, she said, the different field trips provided her with hands-on knowledge.
Polyarit Linkaew, another fifth grader, said he was glad to be learning about the dangers of narcotic substances and would share this knowledge with his friends.
The children are also learning about different faiths thanks to the teachers and volunteers.
Volunteer teacher Suchada Supanunt, who teaches English, said this project gave her a chance to give something back to society. She also said that teaching kids the English language would help boost their confidence and give make them brave enough to talk to foreigners.