Migrant communities risk a lost generation of 'invisible children' as children miss out on early childhood development

Migrant communities risk a lost generation of 'invisible children' as children miss out on early childhood development

VSO Thailand/Myanmar launch a new report: In School, In Society: Early Childhood Development in Myanmar Migrant Communities at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand at 10:30am on Tuesday 9 April 2013.

Early childhood care and education is not reaching Thailand's most marginalised children, despite significant improvements and a clear policy of Education for All, according to a new report from VSO Thailand/Myanmar launched today (9 April). Children of migrant workers are particularly disadvantaged. The community research report, In School, In Society: Early Childhood Development in Myanmar Migrant Communities, uses the voices of communities to highlight the situation of young migrant children in Thailand and the significant barriers they face in accessing the most basic early childhood development provisions.

Young children of migrant workers in Thailand are growing up in precarious environments with few opportunities for their development. There are thought to be at least 200,000 migrant children of an estimated 2.5 million migrant workers from neighbouring countries currently in Thailand, the majority of whom are from Myanmar. Lacking social protection and legal status, their access to crucial early childhood interventions has so far been limited.

Migrant children's access to state education undoubtedly offers a gateway to the most important aspects of child development. Early childhood, defined as the period between 0-8 years old, represents the most crucial time for a child’s development and can determine their lifetime opportunities.

Lack of care while their parents are at work makes them vulnerable to abuse and injury and many are still without birth registrations, rendering them 'stateless'. Only a small proportion are enrolled in state early childhood education provision as the majority rely on migrant-led learning centres, which lack the most basic facilities for the early years. They continue to face significant challenges in accessing the most basic healthcare as some are unable to complete vital immunisations and evidence shows that they are lacking adequate nutrition.

Without legal documents their parents fear approaching state-run services, and policy implementation, where it exists, relies on the attitude and willingness of local authorities. The difficult working conditions of their parents and lack of support from employers is fuelled by low income and further restricts their ability to provide for their children. Migrant families continue to face discrimination due to their social status, with language barriers and isolation creating a lack of awareness of what rights and provisions they can access for their children's development.     

There is a clear need for stronger collaborations between organisations, early childhood development (ECD) service providers, employers and local authorities to promote ECD provision to communities and expand services to ensure that they reach migrant children. National policies need to be better implemented where they exist and further policy development on migration and ECD must take migrant children into account.

"Undoubtedly migrant communities are the most marginalised in Thailand, and their children are extremely vulnerable," said Rakhi Sarkar, Country Director for VSO Thailand/Myanmar.

"VSO Thailand/Myanmar is committed to ensuring that all children, including migrant children, can access quality early childhood development services. We are bringing together partners from civil society, government and communities to develop comprehensive and relevant solutions that address the unique challenges facing migrant communities".

VSO Thailand/Myanmar will launch the report with a panel discussion representing members of the migrant community, migrant advocates and early childhood development specialists: 
Hattaya Wongseaengpaiboon, Education Programme Manager, VSO Thailand/Myanmar 
Aliénor Salmon, Community Research Adviser, VSO Thailand/Myanmar 
Dr Panadda Thanasetkorn, Lecturer at the National Institute of Child and Family Development, Mahidol University 
Roisai Wongsuban, Advocacy Coordinator, International Rescue Committee Thailand 
Pao Hom, Research Coordinator, Foundation for Rural Youth (FRY) 

Editor's notes

Photos and case studies available upon request.

About VSO

VSO is an international development organisation that fights poverty through volunteers, bringing people together to share skills and knowledge. VSO volunteers work in whatever fields are necessary to fight the forces that keep people in poverty – from education and health through to helping people learn the skills to make a living. In doing so, they invest in local people, so the impact they make endures long after their placement ends. VSO recruits skilled volunteers from countries in the global north and global south, as well as supporting the growth of volunteering within developing countries.

For more information contact: 

Manop Laeli, VSO Thailand/Myanmar 
Email: manop.laeli@vsoint.org
Tel.: 02-651 2610/12