VILLAGERS, contractors and volunteers from Protect the Earth Protect Yourself (PEPY) laid the foundations for a strong educational system in Preah Leah last week, completing the ground excavation and concreting for the base of a new school. The PEPY project involves the construction of three US$57,000 schools in Siem Reap's Chanleas Dai commune, with funds coming from Dubai Cares.
The project will replace small thatch and wooden schoolhouses with tiled structures that contain toilets and shelving for libraries. Books for the libraries will be provided by PEPY and Room to Read. Construction began on the schools in early January and is scheduled to end in late April.
Maryann Bylander, managing director of PEPY, told the Post that "very few NGOs work in the Chanleas Dai commune. Most of them are focused more closely around Siem Reap town".
Realising the district was sorely in need of an upgraded education system, PEPY approached the government to determine where infrastructure was most needed, before deciding on Tramkong, Ruu, and Preah Leah.
In addition to working alongside the government, PEPY also strives to involve local communities. "For each school, there is a support committee made up of local officials, the school director, teachers and community members. These committees participated in the choice of contractors and also helped decide the design and style of the school," Bylander said.
"We are using ministry guidelines, but small choices like colours, wood or steel doors, etc, are chosen by the support committee. They also volunteer their time to be trained in construction supervision by our site engineer, and then go regularly to check the quality of the construction."
Bylander hopes that by taking a hands-on role in building the schools, the villagers will be more invested in running the schools. "It's exciting to see the community engagement," she said.
"We haven't done school construction like this before. We're really excited to have the funding to do this."
After the schools are completed, PEPY will initiate a follow-up program, which involves training teachers, sending in evaluators and strengthening the parent-teacher associations.