Children Empowered by Education
Cambodia faces huge challenges in education. The Khmer Rouge regime destroyed the education system: only 54 teachers survived. In the impoverished rural provinces where SeeBeyondBorders works:
Up to 50% of children do not complete primary school.
Literacy rates are among the lowest in the country, at 64%.
50-90% of households have no access to clean drinking water.
Many children have to leave school to work and support the family income.
Rural schools have fewer resources than schools in urban areas. Many do not have proper toilet facilities or access paths.
It is particularly difficult to recruit and retain teachers in these provinces, as they have fewer opportunities and do not want to live and work in these impoverished areas.
The campaign worked in Bavel, a remote, impoverished rural district, to support the professional development of primary school teachers, to increase children’s school attendance and participation and to improve school facilities.
To improve the skills of primary school teachers, who receive little or no ongoing professional development from elsewhere.
To support children who fall behind their classmates, because they have to skip school to work and support the family income. These children are at high risk of dropping out.
To improve school facilities, creating better and safer environments for learning.
To improve the health knowledge and practice of teachers, students and families, to reduce the incidence of preventable diseases and related school absences.
HOW THE OBJECTIVES WERE ACHIEVED
SeeBeyondBorders ran 4 ‘Teach the Teacher’ workshops and provided peer mentoring for 104 primary school teachers, to support their ongoing professional development.
We ran fun, intensive ‘Maths camps’ in 4 schools, for 30 students who regularly missed lessons and were at high risk of dropping out.
We implemented a Health program linked to the health curriculum in 6 schools, teaching basic hygiene practices to teachers, parents and children. Each school organized a health campaign day where students took posters and songs about health to their local villages.
We worked in partnership with local communities to improve school facilities, making them safer and more child-friendly.
The campaign activities were delivered by local staff, in partnership with community members and the District Office of Education.
SeeBeyondBorders is the only NGO in Cambodia focused on the professional development of existing teachers. Our innovative model supports a core group of teachers to become mentors responsible for the ongoing development of themselves and other teachers at their schools. This sustainable approach helps retain effective teachers in deprived rural areas.
By making our ‘Maths camps’ fun, we have developed a new way of tackling high drop out rates among children from low-income families and encouraging them to continue their education.
Our Health lessons provide an innovative way of increasing school attendance by reducing absences related to easily preventable illnesses.
104 teachers attended workshops, received teaching resources and improved their skills and confidence. 91% of mentors progressed up one level on the SeeBeyondBorders mentor scale, demonstrating improved feedback and observation skills.
90% of Maths camp attendees passed their end-of-year tests with scores that exceeded their class average, and their school attendance also improved.
Over 1,500 teachers, parents and children learned basic hygiene practices such as washing hands and cleaning teeth. As a result, sickness-related school absences were reduced.
382 community members were involved in improving facilities at 11 local schools, such as repairing dangerous access paths and building hand-washing stations and water storage tanks. As a result, these communities became more aware of the value of taking care of school property and taking ownership of the facilities so that they are maintained and do not fall into disrepair.
Many people in this impoverished rural district live below the poverty line and struggle to survive. As a result, education is not seen as a priority. Many young children are taken out of school to work and support the family income. These children remain trapped in the cycle of poverty.
Teachers graduating from teacher training institutions in Cambodia are poorly equipped for the classroom, in terms of teaching resources and skills. The most inexperienced teachers are usually posted to rural areas, where there are fewer resources and yet children need more support. Teacher recruitment and retaining them is particularly difficult here, as these postings provide fewer opportunities and lower standards of living.
Child illness and mortality rates in Cambodia are high by regional standards. UNICEF estimates that 50 Cambodian children die every day from largely preventable and treatable diseases, due to poor hygiene practice and lack of access to health services.
We have learnt that the involvement of the local community is the key to the success of our Health program and our efforts to improve school facilities.
In order to be effective, the health practices we teach to teachers and students need to be continued at home and not just at school. For this reason, we involved parents and community members in our Health program, and took the activities out of schools and into local villages.
Involvement of local community members is also essential for the ongoing maintenance of school buildings and facilities. We worked with communities to help them develop their own plans for school improvements. By ensuring the plans had local ownership, the campaign encouraged communities to take responsibility for the upkeep of their local schools, making this activity sustainable in the future.