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Colourfully painted recycled bottles are used to decorate the Coconut School.
Colourfully painted recycled bottles are used to decorate the Coconut School. Hong Menea

No wasted opportunities at school made out of trash

The Coconut School on Koh Dach (Silk Island), where about 200 children aged from between eight and12 years old learn English, to read and to use computers, is total garbage – literally.

The walls are made out of thousands of recycled beer bottles, the tables are supported by old motorcycle wheels, the seats are coconut tree logs and even the school sign outside is crafted from old car tyres.

The school was founded in 2013 by Ouk Vanday, 30, a hospitality worker, after he visited the island.

“I saw a lot of children running around without clothes, and then I stopped to talk with the villagers,” he said.

“They said that there is no organisation or church in their village, so I started to think it would be good to have an [English] school for children in this village,” he added.

The school was built out of recycled material because it was good for the environment and cheap, and coconut trees because they were plentiful on the island.

Vanday started offering English classes by himself, but six others have since volunteered to help him.

Even though a sign describes the school as “church, school and library”, Vanday said no there was no religious aspect to the project.

“We just have that because some churches donated money,” he said.

In May of this year they finished building an extension known as the Rubbish House, which has a computer room and library.

Similar in design to the rest of the school, instead of tiles, the floor of the house is made from bottles buried upside down in sand.

Many of the families on the island did not send their children to the government-run local schools, Vanday said.

“If they don’t have study material, they can come to the Coconut School and use the materials that we received from sponsors and visitors,” he said.

“I don’t want any benefit from the school, but I want to see more Coconut Schools in different places all around the country,” he added.

For more information and to support the Coconut School head to coconutschool.org.

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