Education is vital to a country’s development and features as a Millennium Development Goal. Unfortunately, the centralisation of wealth in urban Cambodia is also replicated in the education system; the further away you live from a main town, the less chance you have to go to school.
Oxfam’s education programs identify areas that need a school and works with the local community to make it happen. Villagers are instrumental in the planning process and contribute materials, like sand and rocks, and labor. This collaboration improves aid value-for-money, but most importantly it generates local ownership. As we talked with teachers, students and parents, pride in the school cut through every conversation — this also leads to everyone chipping in for ongoing school improvements. There are few things better for community solidarity any where in the world than regular working bees.
If a water filter can unveil hope, a school is all about opportunity. Before the new school — if students were lucky — they would study in the skeleton of a building with no walls, no roof and no desks or blackboards. With a new school and study materials, children are now able to get an essential education.
“My family and village are very happy with the new school. After one year, my daughter can read, write and calculate. I will support my daughter to go study at secondary school. I would then like my daughter to comeback and teach in our village,” says father Thorn Reth. Aside from the school, building a teacher’s house is vital for increasing education opportunities.
Teachers usually come from other villages and it’s difficult to earn a enough money for living expenses. This makes teachers seek extra work elsewhere and not teaching the full school year. Providing a teacher’s house eases the financial pressure on teachers, and students get a teacher for the entire year. A house is much more sustainable than salary top-ups too and the offer of a house attracts good teachers.
As I got a guided tour from Pann Sotheary, a teacher in Paov village, I was inspired by his passion and commitment. All the classrooms showcased his students work and his handmade learning resources. Students listened to every word he said and he expressed his plans for the school’s future.
“I will make a fence for the school, plant trees in the compound and prepare a sporting area.”
Meanwhile, Sotheary has created a fish pond, with other villagers, to provide extra nutrition for students. He is also working hard to get Government scholarships for students to attend high school.
He also thinks long-term, and says “I am very happy teaching and I want to live here forever.”