The Cambodia Charitable Trust (www.cctnz.org.nz) was established to break the poverty cycle through education. After 5 years of supporting education in rural Cambodia we were faced last year with a new challenge arising directly as a result of that support. Our focus had been to make sure a Primary School education was available to every child and was able to be achieved. Last year we were faced with the consequence of hundreds of children finishing Primary School and moving onto Secondary School.
When we started in 2008 our first step was to get all the children to school by giving them clothing (a white shirt and blue skirt or pants for $10) and notebook and pens. We provided teachers with a small subsidy on the basis they would not ask from money from the children. The enrolment levels rose. This placed already limited resources under more strain, but we were ready.
We selected the most desperate families who were too poor to send all of their children to school. Often the girls were kept home to work or were sent overseas and often from there, trafficked. Individuals sponsored one girl per family to attend school. To educate a girl is to educate a village. Enrolment parity climbed.
Our next step was to improve teaching quality by providing library books and text books, teaching workshops and teaching materials. We provided the teachers with the tools they needed to be able to teach. We improved sanitation by building toilets and storing clean drinking water. The drop-out rate dropped.
It took time but gradually the quality of teaching improved and children started to actually learn. The teachers learned interactive teaching techniques and had their own knowledge of the curriculum improved. The repetition rate dropped.
Children wanted to finish Primary School, and, because they had developed a love of learning they wanted to go to Secondary School. In March 2012 we visited one of the secondary schools that our supported Primary Schools feed into and it was overfull. Next year children would need to be turned away. We were faced with a daunting challenge.
However thanks to the generosity of our supporters and our tenacity with the Cambodian Ministry of Education, we paid 2/3 of the cost of 6 new classrooms and the Ministry paid 1/3. Demonstrating the community’s love of education the community paid for the floors of these rooms to be tiled. These rooms are being used this month for the first time as school starts for the new year in Cambodia. “The whole community is very proud of this school. It is the most beautiful school in the World in their eyes” Ouch Soeun, Country Manager, CCTNZ.
This is a huge success for the Cambodia Charitable Trust and the partnership between us, the Ministry and the community is one we are very proud of. We are all volunteers so 100% of all donations go to the projects in Cambodia and this approach has paid off with people being prepared to support the trust.
My next step is to conduct research into the factors that influence teaching quality in Cambodia from the teacher perspective and come up with innovative ways to get the best quality education we can for our limited budget. Do you have any suggestions as to how to measure educational quality of programmes to ensure the delivery of quality teaching in a developing country? Do you have any experience and advice about conducting research around education in Cambodia?
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