Sustainable Business Ideas May Soon Help Improve the Quality of Education in PEPY’s Partner Schools
by Greg Carlson
Meet the next generation of entrepreneurs in Chanleas Dai Commune.
Photo Credit: Greg Carlson
Some of you may remember selling wrapping paper, hawking popcorn, or pushing coupon books on your aunts and uncles to raise money for your school back in the day. You may not have realized it at the time, but selling these items helped your school fund programs to improve the quality of your education.
School income generating activities aim to bridge the gap between government funding and the budgetary needs of a school. In Cambodia, that gap is significant. The funds provided for Cambodian public schools amount to $175 per year plus $1.90 per student. This leaves schools with very little means to fund improvement projects or additional educational programming.
This year, some schools in rural Cambodia have taken on the challenge of finding sustainable ways to bridge that funding gap while introducing students to new skills. In March, School Support Committee members from Chanleas Dai, Prasat Khnar, and Run primary schools attended training sessions sponsored by PEPY on growing mushrooms and raising fish. With these new skills, the SSCs hope to start their own income generating projects.
In June, math teacher Phairatt and a group of students at Chanleas Dai primary spent some of their free time digging a fish pond at the school. Growing mushrooms, however, has proved to be a more challenging enterprise. Mushrooms are sensitive to bacteria and require specific levels of moisture in their growing space to prosper. Spores need to be purchased outside of the community and there is no guarantee that the spores will sprout mushrooms. In addition, the wet straw that mushroom grow on is only available at certain times of the year. These challenges resulted in a less-than-successful first round of mushroom growing. However plenty of lessons were learned in the process, and the three schools are determined to get a better crop the second time around and to start raising some funds with which to support their schools.
My role as Social Business Research Intern is to investigate and research income generating activities like these that could be adopted at schools with which PEPY works. Income generating projects we visited and researched to understand how local business models worked include raising crocodiles for meat and skins, raising rabbits, starting a micro-lending group, purchasing and renting a mini tractor to local rice farmers, raising chickens, and renting out speakers for local weddings and events. The research conducted this summer will be a starting point for a new staff position at PEPY: Social Business Development Officer. Please pass this job description on to anyone you know who might want to be our Social Entrepreneur In-Residence!
Stay tuned for future updates on the ventures chosen by SSCs and see where Chanleas Dai residents decide to focus their business acumen.