Bakan district, Pursat province – Save the Children in Pursat province yesterday handed over seven newly-built floating schools for the government to manage as the NGO ended a three-year programme addressing the educational needs of children living in 137 communities on the Tonle Sap lake.
Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron presided over a handing over ceremony with Elizabeth Pearce, country director of the NGO.
In a press release, Save the Children said Japanese donors and government partners spent $2.79 million to fund pre and primary schools. Their goal was to target thousands of children living in floating homes in two provinces, including Pursat, and get them to go to school.
“Children living in the communities…around the Tonle Sap lake are some of the least likely in Cambodia to have access to quality early childhood services, and are also more likely to experience malnutrition and difficulty accessing quality health services, clean water and sanitation,” it said.
Ms Pearce said during a speech at the ceremony that the NGO and its government partners were committed to delivering effective, holistic and inclusive education to toddlers and children in remote, disadvantaged and hard to reach areas.
“All young children – no matter where they live or what their background – need nurturing care to ensure healthy cognitive, physical, social and emotional development, starting from the time they are developing inside their mother’s wombs onwards through their early childhood years,” she said.
Mr Naron said now that the schools are under commune authorities and the Education Ministry, teachers will receive $167 per month as per regulations.
He said the Education Ministry kept an eye on the programme throughout its three-year lifespan.
“For them to become state schools, the ministry introduced a three-year evaluation process for the communities,” Mr Naron said. “This formula will help standardise all schools and teachers will become ministry officials.”
According to the Education Ministry, about 2,700 other schools are undergoing similar programmes managed by the government and its NGO partners located in rural areas.
Nget Heang, chief of O’Taporng commune, said teachers at the newly-built school in his community will receive an extra $62.5 on top of their $167 monthly salary.
Mr Heang said schools are important for young children.
“This school is very good. Children who have been to preschool are smart, unlike children who did not attend,” he said, noting more schools need to be built in other rural communes.
Kin Sarov, a teacher working with pre-school children in the Sdok Klork community, said there are hundreds of impoverished children, but many of them did not have access to education.
“A school is a form of hope for young children,” Ms Sarov said. “People now understand the importance of education, so they send their children to us.”
“When I see young children come to study, I am happy,” she added. “I want to improve my community.”
Ms Sarov said many parents have changed their attitudes about sending their children to school.
“Parents now love to send their children to school unlike before,” she said. “We also go from door-to-door to tell them about the benefits of sending children to school.”
“I believe my community will have a lot of educated people in the near future,” Ms Sarov said, adding preschool children are taught literature, mathematics, social studies and science. “In my community, only a small amount of people can read and write, I believe my community will change with the hope this school provides.”
Mom Sokern, 26, said he stopped going to school when he was about 10 years old. Mr Sokern said now he can send his four-year-old daughter to school.
“I want my child to study because I want her to have good knowledge so she can find a job in the future that is better than mine,” he said.
Nhom Kimhour, 28, said she was excited to hear she can now send her daughter to study in the first-ever preschool in her village.
“My child is now brave and I am so happy,” Ms Kimhour said. “I want her to have a good education and land a good career. This is what I am hoping.”