With news that many schools are closed across China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and several other countries in the region, it got me thinking back to the last time this happened, en masse, in Bangkok. I’m talking about the huge floods which hit Bangkok back in 2011.
I actually moved here a couple of years after but many of my colleagues were here and shared their experiences.
As a bit of background, the floods started in October 2011 and, in some areas, didn’t recede until January 2012. Certain areas of Bangkok were more affected than others.
The school I started teaching in at the time on the outskirts of Bangkok flooded. Obviously this meant classes had to be canceled and teachers allowed to stay home. You may think that this act of God was a nice little break for teachers but they were in for a nasty surprise…
You see, after spending a couple of days at home, the school realized the flood wasn’t going anywhere quickly and decided that these days off work would be taken from the teacher’s, rather meager, holiday allowance. That’s right, teachers were stuck in their condos as their roads were flooded, and these days were being taken from their annual leave.
What’s more, if they had already taken leave, or had more booked for the rest of the year, it was decided to count these extra days as unpaid leave. Teachers had money deducted from their salary despite having no control over what was happening. Unsurprisingly a lot of them quit the first day they could get back to the school to hand in their notice.
I’ve also talked about this topic with many Thai students who told me their October school breaks were extended by an extra week or so. Some left Bangkok for a month or so to avoid the flood and this meant many of them also missed the extra English classes they took at the weekend at shopping malls or with local tutors.
A lot of adults also worked from home which meant those evening English business classes were empty too. A lot of teachers are either paid per hour they work or a salary based on teaching X number of hours a month.
I’m sure they would be in a spot of bother if their school shut for a few weeks. I can’t imagine them getting paid for not working at all, even if the circumstances are beyond their control.
I’ve not heard of similar stories from teachers currently off work due to 2019-nCoV. However, knowing the tricks that some schools here in Thailand get up to with 10 month contracts etc, I’d hate to see how teachers would be affected if schools were ordered shut for a prolonged period of time.
I guess the moral of the story here is that shutting down schools in Thailand may seem like a great little holiday but will probably negatively affect many teachers here.
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