One year after Thailand’s worst flood since decades, the Director General of UNESCO visited Ayutthaya on Sunday 9 September to assess the post-flood recovery works at the World Heritage site of Ayutthaya and to assist at the Inauguration Ceremony of UNESCO’s project on restoring Thailand’s Community Learning Centres damaged by the 2011 flood.
During the visit to Wat Chaiwatthanaram, one of the most affected cultural remains in the Ayutthaya Historical Park, the Director General was informed about the damages caused by the heavy flood with water levels up to 3 meters in late 2011 and the main challenges for recovering damages at the monument. Ms Bokova was impressed by the post-flood recovery works and was particularly interesting in learning about the plans for restoring the historic water management system of Ayutthaya, which had been put in place by the founders of the city but was later abandoned and covered by urban housing and street constructions.
Following the visit of Wat Chaiwatthanaram, the Director General presided the inaugural ceremony of the UNESCO project on restoring flood-affected Community Learning Centres at the Ban Pom community learning centre in Ayutthaya, which provides literacy and lifelong learning services.
She had the opportunity also to meet with a group of women, aged between 50 and 60 years old, benefiting from the Centre's literacy teaching. They shared the content of letters they were learning to write to family leaving in other cities.
"Here in this Community Learning Centre I have met extraordinary people that have been working hard to acquire literacy. For us at UNESCO, literacy is crucial for the sustainable development, because literacy eradicates poverty, literacy empowers people, and after receiving literacy, the people here at the Community Learning Centre acquire different skills to lead their lives in a more sustainable manner,” said Ms Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO.
During the 2011 flood, over 300 community learning centres in Thailand were damaged, 106 of which in Ayutthaya province. The Director-General thanked the Government of Japan for the depth of its support.
“The life of people was seriously affected by the flood in 2011,” said Dr. Sasithara Pichaichannarong, Permanent Secretary at the Thai Ministry of Education during the ceremony.
The project for Community Learning Centres (CLCs) in Ayutthaya and in Thailand received funding from the Government of Japan, which was represented at the inauguration by Mr. Seiji Kojima, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Kingdom of Thailand.
“Ayutthaya had the most seriously damaged education facilities by the flood,” said Mr. Kojima at the opening. He confirmed the support of the Japanese people for the Thai recovery from the flood scope. Based on common experiences with last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the aim of this project is “to better prepare the communities in Thailand for future disasters,” he said.
In cooperation with Thailand’s Office of Non-formal and Informal Education at the Ministry of Education, UNESCO is planning to provide teaching and learning materials and other necessary facilities and tools for those CLCs affected by last year’s flood. UNESCO will also strengthen the Disaster Risk Reduction knowledge and capacities of the Non-Formal Education sector in cooperation with the Thai Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM), Ministry of Interior, and prepare communities and CLC staff for natural disasters.
In her closing words, Ms Bokova said: “My message to the people and local authorities here is that UNESCO will continue to stand by the Thai people.”
In 2011, during the worst floods in Thailand since decades, more than 600 people died. 58 of 76 provinces and the lives of 5.04 million people were directly affected.