Bunrany Hun Sen Chakriyavong, one of the only two high schools in the small coastal province of Kep, has recently added life skills to its curriculum in the hope that graduates will employ their skills to earn additional income to support their tertiary education.

The life skills are part of the STEM Local (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programme initiated by the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC) in Phnom Penh. The project was launched to give students more options when applying for jobs.

Rin Bunroth, a teacher at the high school, said he was taught to dry fruit by the programme’s instructors and is now passing on what he had learned to his students.

In addition to providing the students with life skills, it also provides financial literacy programme to prepare students for higher education and post-graduation careers.

Bunroth and three other teachers have been selected to teach the extra classes. In addition to drying fruit, the students are learning to make milk alternatives, bake cookies and cakes, and raise chickens, a project from the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA).

“Before becoming a lead teacher, I received training related to the skill of drying fruit – mangoes and tomatoes. I think it is a good idea to teach this skill, as the students can contribute to their families’ incomes,” he said.

The classes run for up to four hours, before the students have the chance to apply what they have learned in a practical setting. Although on a strictly volunteer basis, many students were very interested in the classes.

“However, most of what they have produced so far was sold to their fellow students or to their teachers,” he said.

“They have only produced a small amount of dried fruit so far and have yet to consider entering a larger market,” he added.

He acknowledged that establishing a production location and storage of the goods were problems that need to be solved, but said the students were working to achieve a consistent quality in their finished products.

Ho Lika, a student at the school, said she learned to dry mangoes and tomatoes, and has been putting what she has learned into practice for about five months.

“Some of our products sold out. At this time, we are working out the best way to guarantee that the money will be saved and used for higher education,” she said.

Lika has found the extra classes very useful, and is pleased to have gained a skill that she can use to earn extra income in the future.

School principal Loek Hab said the classes are taught with the view that they would help the students increase their earning potential.

He called for increased participation and support from the community, suggesting that investment capital or contributions would help the students expand their operations and earn even more money that could be put towards higher education.