Getting ready for the start of a new school year in the UK or other developed countries always involves a trip to a stationary supplier, the excitement of choosing a pencil case and then an evening of carefully organising the precious new container. The first week back at school sees each child presented with their new exercise books and text books for every class, ready to begin another year of academia. In Cambodia, this does not happen.
There is no state funding for stationary nor equipment in schools here. Or at least, not any funding which can be acquired by rural schools. In addition to poorly stocked classrooms, few parents recognise the value of educational supplies nor can afford to buy them. So many children turn up at school with just the clothes on their back and a few hundred riel (about twenty cents) to buy an overly-sugared drink or salty snack at break time.
Thanks to the generosity of Rotary Club of Crediton, Devon, SKOPE was able to help out at one primary school in November 2017. We equipped 900 children with books, pens and pencils, starting them out on the right foot when they went back to school after their long ‘summer’ break. It might not sound like much to you or I but for children who are used to sitting in a classroom with nothing to write with or write on, this is a big deal.
Much of Cambodian teaching relies on chanting and copying from dusty chalkboards. While techniques have moved on in many countries, the learning styles here are still limited. SKOPE may not be able to change this but at least these children will have a record of their lessons now. When it comes to exams (and there are many in Cambodia), they will now be able to review their work and revise effectively.
Donation days are always fun and a group of children from Sovann Komar travelled just 30 minutes from our compound to a school in Kandal. This province forms a ring around Phnom Penh and is slightly more affluent than other rural areas where we work. However, the lack of value placed on education combined with limited resources sees most children turning up at school without the basic equipment needed to take part in the lessons.
Handing out 900 stationary packs to 900 students may sound like a challenge but with 15 willing helpers, it doesn’t take too long. The children at the primary school waited very patiently for their packs and politely thanked the child from Sovann Komar as they were handed them. And then, of course, it was photo time.
Once again, SKOPE would like to say a big thank you to the Rotary Club of Crediton. Thanks to the generous support of these Rotarians, we were able to complete this project. 900 children can now engage more effectively with their learning. We hope this is a practice which is continued and develops into a lifelong passion for academia. After all, knowledge is power.