Families in rural areas depend on farming as their main source of income. Most parents are uneducated and as such do not realize the importance of educating their children. Farming in Cambodia, as in many other countries is hard work and families struggle to earn enough money to meet the basic needs of survival. They feel that if their children go to school, they will lose valuable help with labor, household duties and childcare. Schools are often a long distance away from villages and as purchasing a bicycle may not be within reason, just getting to school is often an obstacle. These problems are shown in UNICEF's education report which found in 2010/11 fewer then 50% of students who enrolled in year 1 completed their primary education. The report also found that 17% of primary schools in Cambodia didn't even offer the full 6 grades of primary school, adding another difficulty.
It is COSD’s belief that every child has the right to an education. Through our projects, we aim to provide a basic education to children in rural areas who, due to circumstances out of their control, would otherwise not have the chance of attending school. The following programs have been initiated in an effort to begin rebuilding a nation one child at a time.
- Prey Thmei Village School: Located 7 km west of Siem Reap, this school provides free lessons to approximately 60 children from Prey Thmei Village and surrounding area. Classes are held Monday-Friday evenings from 5-9 pm. Subjects of study include Khmer, English, History and Math. The program started in early 2013 and has been well received by those in the community. The students are such keen learners that they began to appear outside Son’s house on Saturdays and Sundays, books in hand and eager to study. To quench their thirst for knowledge, weekend classes have been added.
As the number of students continues to grew we realized it was critical to build a safe, clean and quiet environment for the students to learn, instead of the small lean-to we had available. With the hard work of many Cambodian, Australian and German people we made this dream a reality in 2015. We now have a basic school built, which has two classrooms and an additional area for community meetings. We plan to continue improving the school as much as possible and are currently building a bathroom block.
- Student Sponsorship Program: After a visit to the floating village of Kampong Pluk in late 2012, Mr. Nathalie was inspired to help improve the lives of children living in extreme conditions of poverty. The idea behind the program is to provide full support of a child’s educational needs on an individual basis. Our focus is on children from rural areas and the goal is to support them throughout their educational career so that they may obtain a minimum of a high school education. Students from underprivileged families and who are most at risk of dropping out of school are recommended through close personal contacts in each village. Once accepted into the program, it is COSD’s pledge to support them until they have graduated from high school. Throughout their sponsorship, the students are provided with food, accommodation, school supplies (including uniforms) and other necessary items as required. COSD meets regularly with the students in order to monitor their progress and provide moral support.
The Student Sponsorship Program currently supports four students from the rural villages of Kampong Pluk and Domdek. It is our greatest wish to see this program expand so that more children can receive the gift of education.
- Bikes for Books: For children in rural areas, schools are often several kilometers away and students must either walk or ride a bicycle. One common obstacle that prevents children from attending school is a lack of transportation. The expense of a bicycle cannot be justified for families whose monthly income is equivalent to the cost of a bicycle. The Bikes for Books program provides bicycles to students living below the poverty line so they can at least get to school. If they can get there, they have a chance.
An initiative to change the view of education with the older generation is also being taken. Son holds regular meetings with the members of the community to discuss Khmer history and the importance of reeducating the population. Through these motivational speeches, he hopes to create awareness and understanding surrounding the benefits of education for all.