Nestled in the Stueng Hav district of Preah Sihanouk province, Stueng Hav High School is distinguished as one of the nine model high schools in the coastal province, famed for its progressive initiatives in compost production and fish farming. With close ties to the Ministry of Environment, the school is home to 567 eager learners.

“Once known as Sala Kor, the school has seen a remarkable transformation,” reflects Khem Rorn, the principal of Stueng Hav High School, situated with pride in Village Three, Ou Treh commune.

“The days of plastic waste cluttering our grounds during Kartika month, our October-November lunar month, are long gone. Now, we stand as a shining example of environmental cleanliness and vitality”.

The school infrastructure includes six solidly built concrete structures, hosting 23 rooms and 15 classrooms that cater to students from grades 7 to 12.

The school community comprises 567 students in total, with females representing a strong cohort of 275.

The pristine and verdant environment of the school has not gone unnoticed. Recently, the Ministry of Environment, along with the Sihanoukville provincial department of education, honoured the school by including it in the prestigious list of nine model high schools in Sihanoukville.

High-ranking environmental performance has led to the Ministry of Environment contributing solid construction items to Stueng Hav High School, notes Rorn, including the construction of an organic compost site.

Four teachers have been trained to serve as the school’s core trainers in composting techniques, imparting this knowledge to all the students, barring those in the 9th and 12th grades who are preparing for exams.

“Our primary focus is our life skills project, where we engage students in planting crops and fish farming. They learn cultivation techniques and compost making, using the compost-derived fertiliser for the crops grown within the school grounds,” he said.

Rorn points out that the school encourages the use of various waste types for composting, such as leaves, weeds, rotten fruits, vegetables, and other organic waste.

The school also motivates students, whose families sell vegetables and fruits, to collect and bring any spoilt produce to the school for composting.

The Ministry of Environment, in addition to aiding in the construction of a compost facility, has trained more core trainers, including students. This additional training empowers students with the necessary knowledge and skills for compost making.

With the backing of the Ministry of Environment in terms of materials and techniques, the students have proven their competency in composting, improving the school environment remarkably.

“This is a source of pride for the school and the local community,” declares Rorn.

“Our students’ dedication to cleanliness and proper waste disposal is worthy of praise. Notably, they make a conscious effort to segregate non-compostable waste. As a result, the school grounds are clear of any extraneous waste, and there are no unpleasant odours that could potentially impact the students’ health,” the school principal adds.

The principal noted that the students can take the composting knowledge gained at school and implement it within their own communities.

“By integrating these practices into the wider community, we can cultivate a greener, friendlier environment,” he says.

Currently, Stueng Hav High School grows various types of cabbage and rears catfish. The produce and fish are sold to the neighbouring communities.

The school, already boasting one green net house for vegetable growth, intends to construct another. This model status conferred by the Ministry of Environment also acts as an endorsement from the Sihanoukville Department of Education, Youth and Sport.

In the context of compost production, Ros Soveacha, a spokesman for the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport, reveals that this is a pilot activity within the life skills programme, integral to the general education reform project.

School management is encouraged to collaborate with stakeholders to develop life skills programmes, aiming to integrate STEM theory with practical resource-based implementation.

Soveacha outlines: “This practice can heighten awareness of the environment and life, improving learning outcomes in several ways. This action aligns with article 10 of the internal regulations for public education institutions”.