Back to School With New Bikes and New Ideas
The PEPY Friends School and PEPY Ride School came back to life this October after the long holiday. Both schools held opening ceremonies this month, with new PEPY programs and support. In addition, the PEPY team was able to spend and share time with the delightful students and teachers, and remember why it is we do what we do.
PEPY Friends School
At the PEPY Friends School (PFS), a lower-secondary school in Stung Treng province, PEPY implemented its first educational program since the inauguration of the school in March 2007. The Bike Lending Program is a new venture for PEPY, one that aims to improve access to secondary education, as well as providing an incentive for young Cambodian teens to continue their studies. In the village of Oreussei Kandal, many students live a considerable distance from the new school, making the daily commute long and tedious. The Bike Lending Program provides bicycles to all students at PFS for use as long as they attend the school. Upon graduation of 9th grade, the students take on ownership of the bike as a reward for their hard work and commitment to education.
During the opening ceremony at PFS, school faculty, district education officials, parents, and PEPY team members presented the bicycles to the 67 students. Directly after receiving the bikes, the students were busy checking them over, figuring out the bike locks, and happily posing for photos. Following the ceremony, students had a chance to write thank-you notes. In addition, PEPY Educational Program Director Vuthy Va spoke to the parents, who had the opportunity to talk about what the bike program meant for the students. Several parents expressed their appreciation and promised to ensure that the bikes will be used for only their intended purposes—improving access to education and motivating the students to continue their studies.
Also during the ceremony, the District Governor spoke at length about the area’s commitment to educational development, and was highly appreciative of all those who worked to bring the Bike Lending Program to Stung Treng. Education officials wish to propose an upper-secondary school in the area as well, and hope that PEPY will continue to support education in the region.
In the afternoon following the ceremony, PFS students and teachers, along with PEPY team members, began a small tree-planting project. With a kind donation of 200 Acacia saplings from the Cambodian Department of Forestry, students planted trees along the road entering the school. The small project aims to increase student awareness about environmental protection as well as to beautify the new school grounds. Students will be responsible for caring for the young trees and planting additional trees in the coming weeks.
PEPY Ride School
In early October, the PEPY team attended the opening ceremony of the PEPY Ride School (PRS) in Siem Reap province. The primary school welcomed the students back with addresses by school faculty, PEPY team leader Maryann Bylander, and Vuthy Va, who stated PEPY’s wish to strengthen the quality of education in Cambodia. To date, PEPY programs have focused on increasing access, but PEPY now hopes to augment these programs with those that will improve the quality of education that each student receives.
One way to do this is by increasing teacher effectiveness. In an educational system where primary school teachers receive an average of $30 per month and more than half have no more than a 9th grade education, it is easy to see that motivating teachers can be a daunting task. For financial reasons, teachers are often not able to complete their school duties. Some must take on other jobs to augment their income while others have obligations to assist with family farms. PEPY wishes to implement a financial incentive program that will motivate teachers to complete their responsibilities. The goals of this program are to improve teacher attendance and their effectiveness in the classroom. Teachers would be rewarded for consistently teaching the required lessons and participating in all school activities, as well as for following curricula mandated by the Ministry of Education and recording all classroom activities. PEPY plans to implement the program over the course of the next several months. In the future, PEPY hopes to provide access to teacher training programs as well.The beginning of the school year is an exciting time for Cambodian students and for PEPY, too. It is not only an opportunity to implement new programs but also gives us time to reflect on our efforts and look for ways to improve. Just like the students returning to their studies, we too must focus again on our educational ventures, and continue learning how best to manage them.