Our guide, BunReath, escorted us on a visit to two village government primary schools supported by the Children of Cambodia Foundation. We drove about an hour from Siem Reap to Chikreng District, leaving the main road onto a narrow dusty track to Beoung Primary School. We were greeted at the school gate by the Principal, a shy man who had lived in the village his entire life and taught in the school for many years. It was apparent that this was a very poor village. The children were shy and there were few facilities. The surrounding rice fields were devoid of water and BunReath commented that the land was too dry and the farmers desperately needed rain or their crops would fail. Signs of hope were that the Children of Cambodia Foundation had helped to build two new classrooms and provide bicycles for many of the students, and Geelong College students had constructed new toilets. We watched as the children played a jumping game – each one striving to leap high enough to get a toe on an elastic stretched between two girls at shoulder height.
The second school, Krouche Primary School, appeared to be in better condition. The students displayed more confidence in speaking to us in English. Their school uniforms were a little cleaner and the school rooms looked a little fresher. The Principal of this school was a very friendly young man who is apparently doing a terrific job. He had a young team of friendly teachers, many of whom had been summoned to a room to sit some form of an exam. There was a relatively well stocked library in this school and students were enthusiastically reading books when we arrived. This school is also supported by the Children of Cambodia Foundation.
These lovely kids have been born into poor villages. Their future lies with education, especially with the ability to learn to speak English. English will give them the capacity to gain jobs in the tourism industry in Siem Reap. The support of NGOs and Australian schools for the people of Cambodia, such as evident at these two schools, is desperately needed as the Cambodian government provides little or no support or resources and pays teachers a pittance. These teachers and students deserve much, much better.