Wednesday, 30 September 2009

New Education Project in Takeo

CamKids' latest education project involves the creation of a chain of schools in the rural villages surrounding Takeo town, which is being established by New Futures Organisation ("NFO"), to teach English to the children. The area around Takeo is overwhelmingly an agricultural region with remote and often quite poor villages scattered among the rice fields. English language ability is of increasing importance in Cambodia, where the tourism and service sectors are growing the fastest and good written and spoken English will be a great advantage when these children are looking for employment.

NFO has recently opened its sixth rural school and work is ongoing to expand the project further into other villages. The whole cost of the project is being funded by CamKids, from public donations and CamKids has initially committed to fund the cost of 15 teachers in 2009, with further expansion expected in 2010.

Why is there a need for rural schools?
Many of the children who live in these villages are unable to attend regular school. Although education in Cambodia is free, it is compulsory for parents to buy uniforms and books, which are often beyond the financial means of rural farming families. In addition, the main schools for the area are located in Takeo town, which is several miles away from the children's home villages, down unpaved dirt roads which can become virtually impassable during the rainy season.

Finally, a combination of necessity and local custom often dictates that children of all ages are required to help out on the family farm, sowing and harvesting rice or looking after livestock. Again, this prevents them from attending regular school classes.

What does the rural schools project provide?
NFO funds teachers - often public school teachers or education students from local universities - to go out into the communities where access to education is limited and provide lessons to children and young people there. The lessons are held in private premises in the village which are loaned or rented to the organisation, and following discussions with parents and village leaders, classes are scheduled for times which are suitable for the children to attend - often at lunchtime, late afternoon or in the evening, when the agricultural work is finished. A typical rural school has anything from 70 to 150 students enrolled, attending whichever class is most convenient for them.

NFO provides exercise books and pencils, and uniforms are not required. In addition to the regular Khmer teachers, NFO volunteers visit the schools to provide students with the opportunity to listen to and talk with a native speaker, which helps to develop both their pronunciation skills and their cultural awareness.

What are the rural schools like?
The schools' locations and premises vary from village to village. At one school, classes are held in a fisherman's hut overlooking a lake. Others take place in village centres and in one village where children study in a cow shed beneath the teacher's house! The common theme which unites all the schools is the eagerness of the children to learn - every class is packed with young people, carefully repeating and noting down the day's lesson taught by a committed and motivated teacher. The rural schools project has so far proven a great success and is bringing education to children who would otherwise miss out on the opportunity.

CamKids is also funding the cost of an education administrator for the project. Their job will be to coordinate teaching, distribute materials to the teachers and students and control finances. Recently, an Australian teacher spent some time at the project and we are delighted that he, together with colleagues back in Tasmania, have committed to putting together an English As A Second Language course for the project. He will also be assisting the project coordinator in improving the skills of the teachers and with fundraising for the project in Tasmania.

If you are interested in finding out more about this project or if you would like to support our work by way of a single or regular donation, please send an email to

No comments: