In the education business, some investors care for more than just making money: At Nira International School investors also care for human-capacity building and social community development. This is the agenda the founders of Nira want to become reality over the next decades – an ambitious plan considering that the school had only been established in early 2013, in Tuol Sengke commune, in Tuol Kork district, just about 500 metres east of Tuol Kork’s television station tower. Today the school teaches 80 children from the age of as young as 18 months to 6 years old.
David Said, managing director at Nira, made room for the Post in his busy afternoon schedule to show us around the school and their well-equipped facilities for the students.
“Though our school is quite new we are not lacking the best resources for a quality international school, including professional native English teachers, well-trained Khmer assistants, and especially the right teaching materials and equipment for children,” Said said. “Our shareholders really want to help Cambodian communities by investing in education.
“And we want to take an active part in the development of the Cambodian education system,” he added.
Said, who was born and educated in Montreal, Canada, travelled and worked in Europe and Egypt as a manager before he first arrived in Cambodia in 2003. He tells us he always enjoyed using his experience for operating new businesses and seeing things grow and develop under his care – of course with the help of others.
“We have many teachers, who have a lot of experience in teaching,” he said. The teachers at Nira International School are mostly English native speaker, from Europe, Canada and the US.
“Initially I was very alert for the parents’ satisfaction with our school – but from the beginning on, I have been very, very happy with the positive feedback. We get a lot of support from Cambodian as well as foreign parents who have a great variety of nationalities,” Said added.
Students at Nira come from all parts of the world. “There are many Cambodian students, but also Malaysians, Taiwanese, Thais, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, French, Americans, Belgians . . . and even Mongolians,” Said notes, adding: “Parents come from different cultures with different expectations and we learned a lot from their reaction.”
“Sometimes they tell us about their culture and how they educate their kids at home. For me those are exciting things to learn and especially to understand the kids’ background,” he said. “The parents’ openness is an invaluable input to the school’s own understanding of internationality.”
A class has only about 10 students, to allow maximum attention for the individual child from the professional English native teacher and the Cambodian assistant teacher. In each class there is plenty of hands-on direction, study materials, cartoons, toys, small chairs and tables, a white board and other equipment.
Taking a stroll through the large school garden Said explained that Nira International School has designed and constructed buildings exclusively for the purpose of educating children and facilitating their learning.
“The buildings surround the garden area, so that the centre can be green and lush. Indoors we have a football pitch, a swimming pool and especially another huge playground.”
Pointing into the lush garden David proudly tells us that the kids planted all the flora themselves and he adds: “When I was at the same age, I didn’t have the opportunity to do these fun things in my former school in Canada.”
But not only are the activities outside class better than in Said’s school of childhood days. The intensive attention the individual student gets from the teachers has remarkable effects, especially on the Cambodian children.
“Some of them speak even better English than me at the same age.”
With very good English language skills, students of all nationalities mix with each other at Nira and – in the spirit of internationality – and understand each other quite well, Said said.