Evicted NGO gets a new school

Evicted NGO gets a new school

AN NGO that was forced to fold its free school on the grounds of a Siem Reap pagoda after being evicted by the temple's director has built a new school in a nearby location, its founder said.

Supporting Orphans and Indigent people of Cambodia for Development (SOID) opened the new school in late April, a month after the old school closed, and SOID founder Sok Vanna said he hopes to supply the school with electricity and fans this week.

Sok Vanna said the school has 20 pupils, including seven orphans who he has housed in his former office, and an Australian teacher, Stephen Halloway, who arrived last week.

Sok Vanna previously ran a school at Wat Kork Chark on the basis of a verbal agreement with the former director. But when the director was replaced, Sok Vanna became embroiled in bitter arguments with the monks over the terms of the agreement. The new director told him to disband the school so that additional housing could be built for monks and nuns.

In the aftermath of the dispute, a major donor withdrew funding from SOID after learning that Sok Vanna had been privately giving donor money to the monks. But several other donors have rallied behind him, though they have called for greater transparency and accountability.

Sok Vanna is now distributing monthly operational reports, and the donors are establishing a board of trustees to which Vanna will be answerable.

One of the big new changes is the development of a curriculum.

Halloway is devising lesson plans for the school.

"We'll design it ourselves," he said. "The local standards are abysmal, so we're starting from scratch. I was with SOID last year, so I can see what needs improving. We realised we had to do assessment."

Halloway said the curriculum would include classes on hygiene and life skills, and that an early lesson on respect had proved a success.  

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