A flourishing partnership
In 2013, a partnership was established between PEPY Empowering Youth and Donabate Portrane Educate Together National School (DPETNS). The partnership has since grown to include Balbriggan Educate Together National School (BETNS) which, like DPETNS, is part of the Educate Together National School system in Ireland.
In April of this year, four PEPY Empowering Youth representatives, two members of staff, and two students visited Ireland for three weeks, as part of the partnership. They spent their time away learning about Irish culture and education, whilst also sharing the same about Cambodia. You can read more about their trip, here. In July, five teachers came to Cambodia for a reciprocal visit; Colm, Niamh, Fiachra and Michéal traveled from DPETNS, whilst Sheila came from BETNS to spend three weeks with us; whilst for some of the teachers this was a return visit to Cambodia, for Fiachra and Sheila this was their first time both in the country, and at PEPY. Their three weeks at PEPY were very busy and full of learning experiences for students, staff and teachers alike.
Over the course of their time at PEPY, the teachers spent their afternoons in the Learning Center with the scholarship students. During this time, they taught the students across a range of subjects, exposing them to learning techniques which are common in Ireland; the students found these lessons to be educational, engaging and fun, with the Fizz Buzz mathematics game being a widespread favorite.
The trip also presented a fantastic opportunity for the students to build upon their knowledge of Ireland and experience Irish culture. Niamh, Sheila, Fiachra and Michéal embraced the chance to teach the scholarships students the traditional Irish dances of The Walls of Limerick and The Siege of Ennis, to which they responded enthusiastically. You can watch a video of the experience, here. The fun also extended beyond the classroom, where Fiachra and Colm engaged in a lively game of football with the students, and also introduced them to GAA.
In addition to teaching the students in the Learning Center, the teachers also conducted a number of workshops for PEPY staff, which were focused on a range of topics concerned with education, both in general and specific to Cambodia; these topics included ‘Challenges in Education’, ‘Teaching Methodologies’, ‘Mathematics’, ‘Learning Difficulties and Differentiation’ and ‘Teaching Equality and Justice in the Classroom’. We decided to extend the invitation to attend the workshops to staff members and teachers from other local NGO’s and schools; all of the workshops were very popular and well attended, with everyone agreeing that they had a lot of useful and insightful knowledge to take away from the experience.
During their time in Cambodia, the teachers also traveled out to Kralanh. Whilst here, the teachers visited the high school and taught Dream Classes. They encouraged the students to consider their ambitions for the future, and motivations to help them reach these dreams. Sheila and Niamh worked with the students to create a display in the classroom, for which the students drew around their hands; upon each of the hands the students have written their dreams as a reminder to keep reaching, and working towards their goals.
Although they had traveled to Cambodia with the underlying aim of teaching the scholarship students, the ETNS teachers found that they ended their time at PEPY having gained some newfound knowledge themselves. All of the teachers were struck by the level of enthusiasm towards education and learning shown by all of the students they encountered during their time here. They were also impressed by the interpersonal skills exhibited by the students; they noted that they are ‘extremely good at helping each other and working as part of a team’. In addition to this, over the course of their time at PEPY, Sheila, Niamh, Fiachra and Michéal became aware of some of the challenges in education in Cambodia such as corruption, teaching salaries and rote learning. Moreover, on a personal level, they were faced with the challenge of teaching with fewer resources by comparison to those they usually utilize in Ireland.
The visit was a great opportunity for the partnership to flourish and personal connections to be strengthened further. There are a number of exciting prospects and plans for our partnership in the near future, one of which was initiated during the Irish teachers’ stay; along with the scholarship students, they visited Road 60 studios, to record the Cambodian contribution to our partnership song ‘Perfect World’. The students in Ireland at DPETNS and BETNS, will be recording their parts, ready for us to share the finished product with you soon.
Everyone is incredibly grateful for all the hard work the teachers put into the three weeks, and all the knowledge that has been shared over that time. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and hope to see them back in Cambodia soon. We are excited to see what the future holds for our partnership.