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‘Ice is nice’: blind Thai teacher wins royal recognition

Updated March 16, 2019

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Bangkok: Damkerng Mungthanya, a blind teacher, is being combed by his mother 
at his apartment.—Reuters
Bangkok: Damkerng Mungthanya, a blind teacher, is being combed by his mother at his apartment.—Reuters

BANGKOK: Damkerng Mungthanya is a 26-year-old Thai who wakes up at 5 each morning for his mother to walk him to a train station for the commute into downtown Bangkok, where a student accompanies him to the high school where he works.

The English teacher who has been blind since birth has inspired many across Thailand, winning recognition for his determination and service from King Maha Vajiralongkorn this year.

“Kru Ice is very nice, but if you are late with homework he will scold you,” said Janjira Kaewmaram, 14, referring to the teacher by a nickname his students use.

Yet his journey has not been without hurdles.

Parents questioned his skills when he first joined the school two years ago, even though he had topped his graduation class at the prestigious Chulalongkorn University and placed third in an exam for thousands of teachers nationwide.

“The school said some parents were worried,” Damkerng said in an interview.

“Some asked, ‘Why did the school accept a blind teacher?’” Damkerng was upset, but not defeated, saying he could not let the concerns of others hold him back.

“I have to prove that my abilities speak louder than disability.” It is not unusual for the visually-impaired to become teachers in Thailand, but most work in colleges and institutions of higher education, with few in primary or secondary schools, like Damkerng.

“He has a passion for teaching,” said Veena Ratanasumawong, the department head at the Satri Si Suriyothai school where he teaches the eighth grade. “I saw his ability for teaching and how he made it fun and got students engaged.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2019