PSDP Team Gets a New Name and Selects a Third Partner School

Tuesday, August 2010
by Stephanie

One thing I noticed when I first started sitting in on meetings with our Primary School Development Program team several months ago was that in the midst of conducting conversations in Khmer, they would have to throw in the English letters “PSDP” on a regular basis. Since this is a program wherein our Cambodian staff engages local communities in taking ownership of and improving their own schools, it hardly made sense to continue using a foreign acronym to identify it. The team kicked around several ideas and in the end decided on Sahakoom Apeewaht Sala—literally, “Communities Developing Schools”—as its new name. In speaking, we have taken to abbreviating it “Saw Aw Saw,” the Khmer letters that begin each of the three words. Since not everyone is equipped with software to type and read the beautiful Khmer language, in writing we use SAS. We challenge you to think “Saw Aw Saw” when you read these letters in this and future correspondence from PEPY.

As a quick review, the philosophy behind SAS is to identify schools that have a certain level of buy-in from their principals and communities and to spend three years working with them to identify their needs and priorities, helping them to cultivate their own capabilities and helping them build strong school support committees. Rather than swooping in and “fixing” things ourselves, we aim to equip these school support committees with the tools to tap into the specific needs and desires of their specific villages in terms of education.

We are approaching the start of our second year with our first two SAS partner schools: Chanleas Dai and Prasat Knar. At the beginning of September the school support committees from both of these schools will spend a week at Jombok Hoas, a ropes course and leadership skills facility in Preah Vihear. (Watch this video from Jombok Hoas if you have not already seen our staff retreat video!) During this time, they will work on school development plans for the upcoming school year.

After a very thorough selection process, the SAS team has identified a new school to work with in the fall: Run Primary School. Though all the applicants were worthy options, Run demonstrated a strong community partnership and a motivation and commitment to improving education that got the whole team excited. You may remember that Run Primary School was one of the three schools we worked with last year when we built new buildings through a Dubai Cares partnership. (Dubai Cares recently put out their promo made by Daniela Kon highlighting their time in Cambodia last year. Watch it!) We are excited that Run was selected as a partner for SAS, as we don’t believe that school buildings can improve education without efforts to improve the quality of education going on within them. Through this new SAS partnership we can work with the community of Run as they put this beautiful new building to better use. A participatory rural appraisal (PRA) is already underway to help identify the influential members of the community as possible members of the school support committee and to understand the history of education in that specific area. We expect great things in Run!

Please follow along with our team this year and we promise to keep you up to date as we learn, adjust, and improve our approach to community partnerships through the “Saw Aw Saw” program!