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Oxfam Australia’s Stung Treng School Development program is working to provide children with access to education in Stung Treng province, Cambodia. The program is currently building three schools and teacher’s houses in three remote villages: Pha Ao, Tial and Kompong Pang enabling 1,320 children to go to school. The schools will give primary-school aged children better educational facilities, which will improve attendance, increase literacy and help the children build a brighter future for themselves. Footprints Network has committed to funding all three school projects.
In July 2008, we started building the first school and teacher’s house in Pha Ao village, with the help of communities and the local education office. Both are now complete and as 2009 draws to a close, children in Pha Ao are now able to attend school every day. Their new school is equipped with education materials, a pump well, solar panels, water system and toilets. Students have access to clean water and sanitation, allowing them improved health and hygiene. And, now that teachers have their own place, with more privacy and better working conditions, they are more likely to stay in Pha Ao long-term.
Pha Ao village is located 45km west of Stung Treng town, with a population of 462, including 244 women and 102 families. Pha Ao villagers are from the Koy ethnic minority group and most community members are farmers. Only a few families own buffalos or cows, and the poorest families face rice shortages for over four months each year. The younger community members only speak Khmer, and most are unable to read or write.
The new school and teacher’s house in Pha Ao are complete, and the village can now expect positive changes over time, particularly an increase in the number of girls and boys attending school. Improved literacy rates are also expected because children are spending more time at school and are establishing better reading habits.
Before the new school was built, 135 students were taught in one building which had a leaking roof and only makeshift walls made of long leaves. Students now have better facilities, including enough benches and desks to comfortably study and teach. A 5000L water tank makes sure they have clean water to drink, and they also have access to toilets, a new pump-operated well and water system.
Each new school plans to introduce after-school activities, such as vegetable growing, small animal raising, sports activities and drawing contests. These will not only broaden the students’ educational experience and knowledge, but create a fun place to learn.
The school and teacher’s house were built with the help of the community, who obtained timber to build the school by liaising with government departments. Community involvement means community members now have the skills, such as quality control and monitoring and evaluation, to lead and manage the building of schools and teacher’s houses, or other community buildings.
The Pho Ao community’s involvement at all stages of this project has increased motivation among parents and students to study. More girls will go to school, as experience has shown that if schools are in a village and children do not have to travel, girls are more likely to attend.
Future projects for education will be easier to implement now that the community has established cooperative relationships with local authorities. The community celebrated the school’s completion with an opening ceremony, generating a sense of community pride and ownership. The building will also be an important venue for adult education classes, and other activities such as traditional and cultural events.
Oxfam Australia knows it’s not easy building schools in remote areas. Finding affordable materials is a big challenge. In Stung Treng, only two places sell building materials, and they are expensive. This is why communities seek help from local authorities who can source affordable materials, to ensure that building starts on time and stays on budget.
Your support of Oxfam Australia’s Stung Treng School Development program through The Footprints Network is invaluable to the future of children living in remote villages in Cambodia. Thank you. With the completion of the first school, and plans well under way for the remaining two, these communities living in poverty will soon have access to a fair and essential level of schooling that will allow them to forge a brighter future.
(Update posted 19 October, 2009)
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