(Novice Thai nuns are seen before they receive food from people during the Songkran festival at the Sathira-Dhammasathan Buddhist meditation centre in Bangkok April 13, 2011. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang)

Beam Atchimapon is already three days late for the new school term in her native city, the Thai capital of Bangkok – but for a good cause.

The nine-year-old is part of a small but growing group of Thai girls who choose to spend part of the school holiday as Buddhist nuns, down to having their heads shaven.

The temporary ordination of young men has long been part of Thai culture, with men spending a few days as monks and returning to their normal professions after time at a monastery.

But the ordination of “mae ji” or “nuns” is less common, and the idea that women should not play an active role in monastic life still prevails among more conservative Thais.