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

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. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 March 2019
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‘Ice is nice’: Blind Thai teacher wins royal recognition

  • The English teacher who has been blind since birth has inspired many across Thailand
  • Parents questioned his skills when he first joined the school two years ago, even though he had topped his graduation class at a prestigious university

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 told Reuters 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. He is well-prepared and very responsible.”
So it was no surprise that authorities at the school, where he had once trained, stood by Damkerng, vouching for him and allaying the fears of anxious parents. Now he is a hit with his students, whom he remembers by their voices.
“He is a big inspiration, and motivates us to speak English more,” said his student Janjira, adding that his lessons were clear.
A ceremony in February celebrated the conferral of one of the highest honors a Thai citizen can achieve, a letter from King Maha Vajiralongkorn acknowledging Damkerng’s contribution and hailing him as “a good role model for society and country.”
Damkerng says he was moved by the letter, which has encouraged him to continue teaching and set his sights on a scholarship for graduate school.


Banned Egyptian singer appeals to president

Egyptian singer Sherine Abdel Wahab
Updated 6 min 4 sec ago
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Banned Egyptian singer appeals to president

  • Hossam Habib said that Sherine will not appear before the investigation on Wednesday because she had not done anything to deserve it

CAIRO: In her first media appearance since her singing ban, Sherine Abdel Wahab broke down and appealed to President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi after the Syndicate of Musical Professions banned her from working while they investigate her for allegedly abusing Egypt’s reputation.
Lawyer Samir Sabri filed a complaint against the Egyptian performer and said that she had used festivals and foreign parties to speak ill of the country.
He explained in his statement that he also attached a CD containing what was said by Sherine in a concert in Bahrain.
“Egypt is working to restore its global cultural role as well as organize international festivals and conferences to encourage investments. It is known that art plays an effective role and as an artist as ambassador to this country, Sherine Abdel Wahab presented Egypt in a low-profile manner during a concert in Bahrain. During the concert, she said ‘Now I can speak in comfort, for if I did in Egypt, I’d go to prison.’“
Sherine apologized during her telephone conversation with a famous talk show about the incident on March 14.
She said that she did not mean freedom of expression, but that there are people who are “waiting for her to make a mistake.”
The Syndicate of Music Professions especially did not defend her, and instead quickly issued a ban on her working.
Dr. Hossam Lotfi, Sherine’s lawyer, stressed in statements to Arab News that what his client is accused of was taken out of context by those waiting for her to make a mistake, which is unacceptable.
He added there is no doubt about her love and her loyalty to the country, and her appreciation for all the efforts made by her government and its president to push Egypt to the position it deserves in the Arab world and internationally.
He argued that the lawyer who brought the suit was known for always filing suits against well-known figures in society, purely motivated by increasing his fame.
The board of directors of the Syndicate of Music Professions, headed by artist Hani Shaker, decided to ban Sherine from singing and investigate her on March 27.
“The decision to stop Sherine was only made after the union received numerous complaints from Egyptians at home and abroad, which is detrimental to the national security of Egypt,” Tariq Mortada, legal adviser to the union, told Arab News.
“Sherine has said a number of abusive things before, including when she said in jest: ‘Drink natural water so you do not get schistosomiasis, in reference to when someone asked her to sing her song Mashrebtesh Men Nilha.’“
Mortada said that the issue of insulting Egypt has taken its course in the Egyptian courts.
He said Sherine is a great star and a very important artist, but she harms her talent when she speaks inappropriately of Egypt.
On the other hand, the Egyptian artist Hossam Habib — husband of Sherine — expressed in press statements his deep sadness at the decision of the syndicate stopping his wife from singing.
He said that Sherine will not appear before the investigation on Wednesday because she had not done anything to deserve it.