One Thursday afternoon after Ta Porng Nuy has finished his work on a yam field in rural Ratanakiri Province, he gathers a selection of books on his three wheeled motorbike, driving it to a nearby town and parking it in the shadow of a tree.
Porng Nuy has no shortage of patrons, with approximately 20 readers, mostly young children between five and 10, gathering around his mobile library to enjoy his selection of literature.
Bringing reading material to isolated communities is a project the 23-year-old has been pursuing for nearly a year in cooperation with French NGO Aide et Action, as he drives his cart to Koun Mum district’s Ta Ang commune saddled with more than 900 reading books.
“Children studying from grade three love reading the books and smaller kids just come to play the picture puzzles,” he said.
Aide et Action was established in 1981 and champions the right to education in developing countries worldwide. They have worked in Cambodia for over 15 years to provide access to good quality
This mobile library is just one part of the NGO’s wider project to strengthen and expand educational quality in rural Cambodia regardless of social status, geography, ethnicity, religion, language, gender and disability.
Nhem Chantoeung, a teacher at Tus Primary School in Ta Ang commune’s Tus village since 2009, explained that his school has only two classrooms and 71 students, with about half of them come from poor families.
“Many of them have no bags and suitable clothes. Besides studying, they help their parents in yam field and scratch cashew nuts,” said Chantoeung.
But in cooperation with the ministry and the Consortium for Out-of-School Children, Aide et Action aims to eradicate situations like those experienced by Chantoeung. In the past three years, their projects have helped more than 60,000 children in Cambodia gain access to quality education.
“In Cambodia, Aide et Action opened its office in 2002 to focus on strengthening and enlarging the quality of education, learning and teaching in impoverished communities across the country,” the organisation’s Country Programme Director, Vorn Samphors, told The Post.
“We work with communities and parents so that children can at least complete primary school. We also help teachers with whatever they are struggling with, provide teaching equipment and offer incentives to contracted or volunteer teachers to remain in the profession in order to help all impoverished communities have classes and schools."
“In some schools, we equip them with tablets and computers to attract children to come and engage in reading,” he said.
Aide et Action works in eight provinces operating permanent libraries, as well as providing mobile libraries to 14 villages a week. However, Samphors said there are many more communities in rural Cambodia that remain off limits to the projects due to poor infrastructure.
“Our idea is that reading is extremely important and so we want to place reading at the centre of schools, libraries, in communities, on tablets and phones."
“But we have many villages that we can’t reach out to yet because of poor infrastructure, especially a lack of teachers. So we need to work together to bring opportunity to help those kids,” he said.