Increasing Community Involvement
Involving the community with the schools in Cambodia is not easy. Community people live apart and do not have a relationship with the school in some areas (they think that the school is the responsibility of school principal and teachers, not a community responsibility). Through meetings, home visits with community leaders, and encouragement we have found that the community has changed their perspective about the importance of getting involved with the school for their children’s future. Community involvement and engagement is the most important thing to increase sustainability in the school. As a Community Liaison Officer and Coordinator, we coordinate and build a bridge between community people, community leaders, school principals, teachers, students and other stakeholders.
We also meet parents of children to discuss the advantages of study and the importance for their children. Most parents in Cambodia, especially parents of students in rural areas, did not finish primary school.
Sometimes we will conduct home visits where school principals inform us about serious absenteeism or children dropping out. We go to children’s houses to talk to them and their families about the reasons they stopped going to school, explain to them the value of education and try to encourage the parents and children to go back to school. Some children live pretty far from the school and that is the barrier to getting to school. They need to spend one hour go to school and another hour to go back by foot.
BETTER SCHOOLS PROGRAM
Improving School Infrastructure
Improving infrastructure in schools is a priority in order to improve the school environment, and make primary schools more child friendly. Before we provide any infrastructure improvements to the school, we always think about sustainability of the project for the long term. We consider community involvement and engagement in the school, and we need to make sure that the community will be involved with some activities before we undertake construction. The involvement can be labour or providing materials or sometimes funding. To be a responsible person in managing constructional work with the project team, it is important to be flexible, fast, have effective communication and learn from past experiences.l
This year, we have been progressing some construction projects at Sdey Leur and Prek Norin schools:
Sdey Leur Cluster:
• Sdey Leur: Volleyball court, ceiling, washing station, toilet repairing.
• Prek Loung: Concreting, drainage, ramps, new toilet building, water storage,
gutter, washing station, toilet repairing.
• Sdey Krom: School building, washing station, new toilet building, concreting,
Prek Norin Cluster:
• Sdey: wooden building repairing.
• Prek Norin: Repairing a cement building (putting roof, windows, doors, concreting,
stair, paths floor, painting…)
Project team coordination
Australian volunteer project teams come to Cambodia a few times a year, along with the Australia volunteer teachers, or as part of corporate volunteer groups. They always go to the schools that are based in our target areas, and work with different activities to improve the school environment and increase the community involvement and engagement. As a community liaison officer, I need to plan and schedule everything to be ready in advance before they come, and coordinate and oversee the building work that the project teams do in schools.
GETTING TO SCHOOL PROGRAM
The enrollment campaign is a part of Getting to School Project. This year, we were prepared an enrollment campaign with cooperation from Ek Phnom DOE, and other 16 schools in our target area. More than twenty trailers were used for this event.
Planning, and coordinating the health and sanitation workshops that support Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is also my responsibility. In the health workshops we always involve community and students council if possible, as well as Australian volunteer project teams.
We introduce hand washing, teeth brushing, monitor weight, and height of the children and distribute soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Recently, we have developed a sport program that has 4 main outcomes:
1 To improve rates of school attendance and dropout measures within primary schools (Grades 1-6).
2 To improve student group’s Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS), ability to work cooperatively, productively and safely in whole class and team activities, including the sharing of equipment.
3 To increase levels of community engagement with school.
4 School/ community is able to deliver a sports program that is enjoyable, appropriate for students’ needs and capabilities, practical to implement, and sustainable.
In January, we delivered training to 56 community coaches, assistant coaches and classroom teachers for the sports program. In the training my responsibilities were planning, helping, coordinating and translating. Now we are giving further training to community coaches and assistant coaches, and setting up the Sports Program in two pilot schools.