Reflections and Projections
Over the course of the last few weeks you likely have received around a dozen emails and letters from non-profits going over the course of their achievements from the last 12 months and asking for money. Like all of the rest, we can’t help but ask for your support during this time of celebration, reflection and new beginnings. However, instead of a laundry list of achievements from the past year, we want to focus on what we’ve done in the last two months since the new school year began in Chanleas Dai, and what we’re looking forward to in early 2009.
Our staff in Chanleas Dai has nearly doubled since the beginning of the school year in October. We now have 3 computer teachers, 3 English teachers, 4 Khmer Literacy teachers, 2 librarians, and two new Child-to-Child educators—many of whom come from the Kralanh area. In large part, these numbers have grown to meet the increased demand for education in Chanleas Dai. For the first time ever, there are three classes of 6th grade students, with students from remote areas in other districts transferring to Chanleas Dai for the quality of education offered there. Our computer and English enrollment is up nearly 50% from last year, both because of the interest in the XO computers as well as increased parent involvement and support for education since conducting the Participatory Rural Appraisal early this year. We believe that this growth in numbers reflects higher quality in our programs since last year, largely due to increased staff training, capacity building and investment in both government and non-government teachers.
At our staff meeting last week Srei Thor, PEPY’s librarian explained some of the qualitative changes she has seen this school year. “Before, the children would come into the library and flip through pages. Now, they actually read the books out loud. Even the second graders! During break time there is hardly even room to sit on the floor.” After continued complaints that students had read every single book in the library, PEPY purchased nearly 1,000 new books for the library last month, and added a second librarian to extend the hours of the library over lunchtime.
Our Teacher Livelihoods Program has had a dramatic positive impact on teacher motivation and attendance. Last month every single teacher in Chanleas Dai primary school had over 90% attendance, compared to last year’s averages of around 70%. In the past two months Chanleas Dai teachers have also received additional training in Literacy, Environment/Hygiene through Literacy, and Mathematics. In December and January we will offer two additional trainings in Child-to-Child teaching methodologies and continue working with government teachers to support their professional development and classroom resource needs.
In October the recruitment for young women scholars to the Asian University for Women began. With one year of recruitment and relationship building behind us, the interest and support for AUW in Cambodia has grown exponentially. We have given out 600 applications to date, and done presentations at schools throughout the country. Shortlisted candidates will interview in March of next year, and we hope to send at least 10 young women to study at AUW in Bangladesh.
In addition to focusing on Khmer literacy through our summer literacy camp and intense literacy classes at The PEPY Ride School, PEPY has established partnerships and projects that will affect literacy nationwide. Working with BETT, Room to Read, and Caring for Cambodia, PEPY staff have spent the last two months creating early readers in Khmer, leveling existing books, and working to create a model of classroom libraries to serve as an alternative to a “reading room” library system that has proved to be a failure throughout Cambodia. We hope to pilot these classroom libraries in early 2009, and expect to publish several early readers next year as well.
In the past two months we have also focused on school building, following a participatory model of school construction that involves community members and villagers in the building process. We break ground on a new secondary school building in Chanleas Dai this week and hope to fund additional primary schools beginning in January as funding is secured.
The last year has been a promising beginning for partnerships in literacy, community capacity building, and improved quality of education and teaching in Chanleas Dai. We are excited to continue building this promise in 2009. The team we have today is stronger than ever. With 27 motivated Khmer staff and 12 passionate interns, we have a strong team driving our mission. Thank you to all of those who have given their time, energy, efforts, financial support, and encouragement. We would not be here without you.