This is just a quick post about my school visit today.
Despite some minor cultural problems, described below!, it was a great visit. I was most impressed with the Headteacher, who clearly held the school close to his heart, knew about everything that was going on, was behind all the good things that had taken place and yet accepted what to me was rather patronising advice from some of the Ministry people with a good grace.
I felt that I learned a lot, rather than having advice to offer, from what was a well run and well appointed Cambodian school, probably the best I have seen so far, despite some very large classes, well over 50. He had a Buddhist monk from the local pagoda as his chair of the school support committee and this seems to be a great move as a lot of community charity in Cambodia goes through the pagodas. On the wall, are painted the names of the 100+ community members who have given donations, while in every classroom were pictures of an American Cambodian family (fled the Khmer Rouge) who support the school. The children were disciplined and friendly. If I have a criticism it would be that what I saw of the teaching was not as engaging for the learners as some of the other schools I have visited, although the class pictured below (12 were absent for the roll of 44) worked well in their groups and clearly understood how to co-operate and support each other in the activity set. The children here are so eager for learning, and so well behaved – so sociable in their character, that any UK teacher would give their eye teeth to have them in their classes in UK.
The ladies running the library had been trained by ‘Room to Read’ who had also provided the books. They were really proud of their system for finding out who had visited the library. Each class has a plastic bottle for girls and one for boys (you can see them in between the ladies). Whenever a child enters the library s/he picks up a little shell from the tub and places it in the relevant plastic bottle. At the end of the month, they empty out each bottle and write the totals up on a big wall chart to keep an eye on library useage across the school. There is a timetable for teacher supported access and access is pretty free at interval and lunchtimes. These ladies are ordinary teachers who have taken on the library as part of their job. I think they are doing rather well.
Here are the pictures in slide show format.
The last couple of days I have been in Siem Reap, not to see the temples of Angkor, but to attend a conference where all the Provincial and District Directors of Education are getting together with the Ministry staff to review progress in the Child Friendly Schools initiative. It’s a great programme, supported by UNICEF, but very unevenly implemented so far. The conference has left me feeling strangely optimistic, as much because of the people as anything else, although some of the incidents around the conference have been interesting learning experiences for me…. such as the start of this field visit which we did today to K’Nat Primary School. We were told to be at the College at 6.00 (that’s AM!) so I arranged to be picked up by the moto driver at 5.45 – when it was raining! We arrived at the College at 6.00 to find everyone already loaded into the buses. However that was an illusion. We hung about for twenty mins before anyone left. I then had to share the front seat of the minibus with a rather large Khmer man – not very comfortably – for the 15 – 20 Km drive out to this school. When we got to the school, there was no-one there. The school director didn’t expect us so early and because of the rain a lot of kids came in later after the rain had stopped! It then took about 4o mins for us to work out what we (ie 30 delegates from the Ministry ) were going to do / see etc. Yet despite this start to the day, and innumberable other time-wasting frustrations, it somehow works. One day quite soon I may be ready to write about the ups and downs, the blacks and whites, the paradoxes of Cambodia… but not quite yet!