Photo by: Photo Supplied
A student paints flowers on the wall of her new primary school.
MORE than 150 teenagers are starting their first day of junior high in Chanleas Dai commune on Monday, after the NGO Protect the Earth Protect Yourself (PEPY) finished construction on the schoolhouse earlier this week.
The building is the first junior high school in the commune, and according to PEPY Executive Director Daniela Papi, this has prompted a surge of enrolments.
"Eight to nine times more kids are going to junior high school this year than last year," Papi told the Post. "For some kids, the nearest junior high school was 18 kilometres away."
The school will teach grades seven and eight, but Papi hopes next year to expand the curriculum to grade nine, bringing in an additional 100 students.
In addition to the junior high school, PEPY is building three primary schools in Chanleas Dai, with financial backing from Dubai Cares.
One of the primary schools opened two weeks ago, and the other two are scheduled to open in June.
But though the organisation is halfway through its construction program, Papi said the hardest part is yet to come.
"A school is only as valuable as the education that goes on inside it. We need to make sure students are learning."
PEPY is following up school construction with teacher training, maths and literacy camps for the children, and the establishment of parent and teacher community groups that will hopefully help shape the direction of the schools.
"The decisions need to be coming from them," said Papi.
The organisation began working in Chanleas Dai in 2005 and is dedicated to lifting rural Siem Reap out of poverty.
"Siem Reap is in the top three poorest provinces in Cambodia, despite the fact that it has a big town," said Papi.
"It has some of the worst soil in the country. ... A lot of the people here cross over into Thailand illegally and are often sent back with no money. So we want to try and turn that around."