New Life School: The educational system in Cambodia

Venerable Vorn Saven, founder of the New Life School

Venerable Vorn Saven, founder of the New Life School

guillemet In Cambodia, as in every country, to begin to understand the present condition of disadvantaged children, first we must understand its educational system.

Although the public school is open and free, it only provides basic classes: Khmer language and literature, history, geography, science, and mathematics.

And if going to school is supposed to be obligatory and wearing the uniform is obligatory, attending classes isn’t.

In public schools, unlike private schools, the conditions for teaching and learning are extreme: each class got between 50 and 100 pupils, the school material is minimum. Teachers are not provided with pedagogical method books, and when they have tutorial books, most of them are written in English, a language that is often poorly spoken by these teachers.

Finally, it should be emphasized that if public schools are supposed to be free, school registration and photocopies are asked to be paid “under the desk”, and the attention paid to the students is low.

guillemet Children have very little personal material: textbooks belong to the school and are lent to them at the beginning of every year (a single textbook is shared by 4 to 8 students on average). Poor children often have at best a pencil or a pen, sometimes a notebook, that they carry in a plastic bag.

Child labor is now increasingly banned and regulated.

However, it is not uncommon to meet children, in groups or alone, selling crafts at the tourist sites.

Despite the fact of Siem Reap being a quite secured city, it is also right next door from the prestigious site of Angkor (located 5 km from the city), where such as in Sihanoukville, famous city Located in the south-western tip of Cambodia, children-merchants are legion.

In Cambodia, poor children go to school in the morning and then go to sell their made-to-order products (bracelets, key chains, postcards, and even multilingual leaflets and tourism guides). In the afternoon until a few hours too late to properly eat, rest, and do their homework.

Cambodian youngsters are searching for their own identity. Most of them are not supervised and are forced to find a way of getting an income to support their family; they can easily fall into drugs or other dangerous situations.

Therefore, they are struggled between their will of keep on studying and the need of finding any job in order to provide food and shelter for their family.

The existence of an open school like the New Life School protects many children from streets dangers. NLS’s children learn to live together and to share ideas, while developing their knowledge and their intellectual identity.

English translation: Vanessa Cabaleira
Photos: Geoff Greenwood

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