Travelling down a trash-laden and potholed road, visitors invest at least four hours to reach Marich village, the so-called “Hidden Village”, from Preah Vihear town.
It’s the name given to the community by staff of Save the Children Norway. At Marich, the NGO teaches writing and reading, while also training homegrown teachers. Outstanding students of the third grade teach their juniors. And besides the 77 students it attends to, the programme instructs villagers in subsistence farming and herding techniques.
Helping each other
“I want to continue my studies and help villagers who are illiterate at the same time,” said Tin Dany, one of the two teachers in the village.
Becoming a teacher in a remote, rural area with little or no formal education was a daunting challenge for the 19 year old.
“I learned how to read and write from my father, who was able to read a few words,” Tin Dany said.
“I was also taught by one of my fellow villagers – the only one in the village who could read and write.”
Off the beaten path
Marich is in deep forest 100 kilometres from Preah Vihear town. The Hidden Village has been isolated from the outside world for decades – villagers’ only livelihoods are growing rice and collecting gum mastic from trees in the deep woods. Now the 250 villagers have their own school where their children have access to education.
However, the school is only able to accommodate students up to the third grade, and it is too far off the beaten path to allow teachers to commute from a larger town.
Coaching at home
Now Tin Dany is fortunate enough to receive coaching from Save the Children Norway’s teachers.
The NGO’s instructors come to the village twice a month and stay for at least three days on each visit to train the village’s two teachers, offering them lessons in subjects such as reading, writing and educational techniques.
Until recently, Save the Children Norway invited the Marich teachers to Preah Vihear town for training, but because it is difficult for them to travel there, the organisation decided to send teachers to provide on-site training.
The village has changed and improved quickly.
Villagers are more exposed to neighbouring communities, which has increased access to information, and most students are now able to read and write. Parents now push their children to go to school.