Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?"
The King will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me." .......Matthew 25

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

New school at SokSan village?

We had the opportunity to visit a remote village in Santuk district. Santuk is the district just north of Baray, and this village in an area called Kom Pup Om Bel, is about 10kms deeper than our last village school in Andaut.

In some ways the village is reminiscent of a previous village we visited, Tropeang Russei, in that it is kind of a re-settlement village with new families. The land seems rather dry and ill-suited for farming, Tapioca (casava) appears to be a major crop. There seems to be Chinese/Vietnamese industrial influences all around, though not really visible. The village itself is rather sparse and scattered although there are supposedly 400 families living in the area. No schools noted, although there was mention of a school set up for workers in these Chinese/Vietnamese concerns.

The headman is young, active and supportive of the educational mission. Samrong Church (Ps Kea) has a member Ps Cheat who is prepared to move into the community with his family. One of his family members run a provision shop and pharmacy.

A 3 classroom school plus a drill well will cost us about US$30K. Should we? The village has already identified the land for the school.

from 3rd from left - headman, Ps Cheat, Ps Kea and me

One session schools

Since the late 1980s, the Ministry of Education is Singapore has been moving our education system towards one session schools. The target is that by 2016, all primary schools in Singapore will only be one sessions schools. I can imagine it is a logistically and operationally difficult exercise. That it has taken 30 years to get to this stages gives an idea of how difficult this journey can be.

In Cambodia, the schools are all double-sessioned, and plagued by corruption and cheating. The quality of education is suspect and the schools system runs in parallel with a corrupt private tuition scheme. Brehm & Silova (2014) has written an excellent review of this complex and dishonest system operating in Cambodia. Recently, the government appears to be making some attempts to deal with these problems and to improve the quality of education in Cambodia. The recent moves to crack down on corruption at the Grade 12 exams resulted in massive numbers of failures and considerable grief to the students accustomed to being able to cheat their way through the exams.

They have also made moves to improve teacher salaries. What we heard in the villages is that together with salary increases, the government is also banning teachers from teaching over two sessions. We do not know what the implications will be for classroom utilization. The assumption is that teachers will teach only one session, and students will therefore have to get used to a one session school. However, this does not appear to be the case. Schools will continue to operate over two sessions, so technically there will be twice the numbers of teachers.

The schools we had built in the past years are now fully occupied. Three classrooms operating two sessions handle students over Grades 1-6. Currently there appears to be no demand for extra space, should schools move towards a one session system.

We are keeping our eyes on these developments.

School@Phum Leav

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Testing out the D'light S20

One of the high school students we are supporting, lives in a home without electricity. He does is homework at home with the aid of a small kerosene lamp. So I thought I would check out other sources of lighting he may be able to use. Without power, the only, and most obvious choice is the use of solar battery powered lamps. Online searches pointed out an apparent solution,the d'light S20. It puts out about 25 lumens, which seemed a bit dim to me. And they are not cheap. In any case, I bought a couple to test.

This is one lamp suspended about 2 feet off the table.
This is 2 lamps.

Verdict: One lamp is barely adequate. Two is off course much better.
Cost: US$18.95 for each lamp. Shipping not included.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Boeung Rial (Foating Village) update - a joy to behold!

Bringing a school to the floating village, Boeung Rial had always been a challenge. When we finally constructed the floating school for the village we had to deal with the problem of getting teachers for the school. The journey there for any teacher, no matter how dedicated, was challenging. We eventually developed a funding mechanism to support the salary and transport allowances for two teachers to go to the school and teach for 4 sessions a week.

What a joy to behold on this trip, how the classes had taken root. The teachers were a wonderful pair. In particular, the old gentleman who was a retired police officer was so wonderful with the children. It was a real joy to see how the children responded to him, and how eager they were to volunteer to practice their lessons in front of the class.

Praise God!

 Waiting for school

 School bus

  Floating school


So proud of her!

Tablet technology
Happy kids

Sunday, November 4, 2012

School@Chhom Trach - 7 years and going strong!

The very first school we built in 2005, was at a very poor village called Chhom Trach. Now, 7 years down the road, the school is going strong. A couple of years ago it was struggling through a rough patch with a rather amotivated teacher. We had to "incentivise" the government appointed teacher, and appoint one of our own (a retired Christian principal from another school). Now the school is bustling with activity, and the kids seem happy and keen about their schooling.

The school now runs 3 sessions (2 in the morning and one in the afternoon) in  2 classrooms for Grades 1-4.  Grades 3 and 4 are a combined class because of the lack of teachers. There is also a problem of parents often pulling the kids (usually the older ones) out of classes in the afternoon because of work in the fields. We have decided that we will supplement the salary of another teacher/session so that Grades 3 and 4 can be run as separate classes. Then move the older classes to the morning.

The kids continue to receive a free meal once a week. This costs us about US$140 per month.

Supporting the school in Chhom Trach costs us a fair bit. If you feel you can contribute to this effort, please write to me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Floating school@Boeung Rial in need of repairs

How quickly time has passed. Once we had fretted about whether we could actually get the idea of the floating school (literally) off the ground. Now it's been almost two years since we floated the school at Boeung Rial. During the last big floods last year, the school had morphed temporarily into an ark for some of the struggling frightened families.

We visited Boeung Rial just to get a feel of how things had progressed and whether or not the school had been rightfully been returned to the community as a school.

Our worries were unfounded. Juhan, the man entrusted  with the task of looking after the school had done a marvelous job. The school was back to its original function.There are a fairly constant 25 students who come regularly. Juhan had assured us not to worry, saying that he would die to protect the school. Somehow, I believe him. But he shared that vandals (probably drunks) sometimes try to cause trouble for the school by cutting the anchoring ropes. Also sometimes, the storms are too strong for the scrub branches where the school is tethered to. Each time the school loses its mooring, he has had to re-tow the school back. Sometimes there is not enough help, and the gasoline cost of towing the school has begun to be a financial burden for him.

Now, on top of replacing the frequently vandalized anchoring ropes, it is also apparent that the bamboo and oil drum floats of the school need repairs. This is clearly going to cost.

The task for us now is to raise the money to repair the bamboo and the oil drum floats and to provide Juhan with some financial support to pay for the gasoline needed by the boats to tow the school around.

Friday, December 9, 2011

So pleased that the folks have taken up the task of cleaning out the wells for the villages. Started on 28th November. Over 6 days they have cleaned a 100 a cost of US$7.50 per well.