The first day of school on Wednesday was not a happy time for every child and parent, some of whom had to borrow, beg or even steal school uniforms. Just so they could send their children to class in a uniform like everyone else. This year, the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the opening of the new term by almost two months. But the outbreak also compounded the financial suffering of parents, several of whom lost their jobs from business closures or saw their incomes dwindle.
In Chumphon, a mother of four went to a local shopping mall with her eight-year-old daughter on Tuesday. She grabbed school uniform skirts and shorts from the racks and shoes from the shelves — although she had no intention of paying for them. She and her daughter were caught by the store’s security guards and taken to a backroom office where she was detained. Lang Suan police were called and they arrived shortly later to question the mother, 26.
The mother was remorseful but insisted she had no other way out but to steal the uniforms. She and her husband were down on their luck, struggling to find a job after being laid off at the height of the pandemic.
She told police her family was poor. Buying the uniforms for her children was simply out of the question. The mother said she would rather shoplift than let her children turn up on the first day of school in plain clothes. That would have embarrassed them.
When the mother and daughter were being escorted to the backroom, shoppers had noticed the incident. Some of them, who were also shopping for uniforms for their children, reached into their pockets and scraped together 1,200 baht to pay for the uniforms for the family.
The donors also asked the store staff not to press charges against the mother. They felt that if the mother was arrested and remanded in police custody, her family would be in even deeper trouble. The store agreed not lay charges although they gave her a warning before releasing her and her daughter. Sometime later, Suchart Saengklud, director of the Homeless and Destitute Centre in Chumphon, visited the family who live in a run-down house in the middle of a rubber farm owned by a local businessman in tambon Chong Mai Kaew in Thung Tako district of Chumphon.