FOUNDATION stone laying ceremony for a new Unesco funded school which will
teach traditional methods for making Cambodian handicrafts was held at
historical Wat Sbeng on June 16.
Supote Prasertsri, an Education Program
Specialist with Unesco, said: "Unesco is interested in revitalizing traditional
skills like silk-weaving, silver smithing and bronze work.
"We hope the
traditional processes, to be taught by master trainers, will allow the students
to produce things like Buddha images, temple bells or family utensils. Other
skills that may be taught at the school include traditional carving,
architecture, and painting."
Prasertsri said: "The mandate of Unesco is
to provide funds for projects that will revitalize Cambodia in a culturally
sensitive manner. One reason for choosing this village is its location near the
old Khmer imperial capital of Odong. "
He said the school would be
managed and run by the monks at Wat Sbeng and serve the district of Ponhea Leu
in northern Kandal Province.
Nouth Narang, Secretary of State in the
Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, said at the ceremony: "If we want to
revitalize Cambodian culture, we must remember that the wat played an important
role in preserving culture and in educating the people in the surrounding
"The monks also played a role in social mobilization. The monks
were the chief social organizers, the laymen were the
"Even during the period of French rule, when secular
schools were introduced and infrastructure was improved, it was the monks who
mobilized the effort."
The head monk, 80-year-old Lut Laie, told the
audience: "Wat Sbeng used to be a royal wat, if someone wanted to celebrate
here, they had to ask the King. It has a special place in Cambodian
Laie entered the Wat when he was nine years old. He was
disrobed by the Khmer Rouge in 1975 but returned to the monkhood in 1979.
Narang said: "It is hard to find a monk as qualified as Laie. He is one
of the reasons that we decided to build the school here."
said: "Wat Sbeng was completely destroyed by the KR. They also disassembled a
large outdoor stone Buddha which is now just a pile of stones circled by a brick
The school will be opened in three months. It is one of several
community learning centers planned and funded by Unesco to be constructed in the