Countryside Class is a community-based school program located in Kompongseyma Village of Battambang Province, Cambodia. Founded in 2010 by Sambath Meas, the class started with only 10 students but has since expanded to around 100 regular attenders from different age groups, many of who attend the school for free since their families cannot afford the $1.00 per month fee. Moreover, the school functions as a focal point in the community for children to learn, to interact, and to work toward an improved life.
The vision of Countryside Class is that all Cambodian children will be educated and have good character and that they will lead their country and people forward to development. We move toward this vision by teaching positive attitudes and values to children through teaching, reading, and community bonds.
Countryside Class's Two Goals:
To encourage critical thinking about foundational values;
To improve the living standard within the community.
With help from the French organization Avenir Pour l'Enfance and individual donations out of Malaysia, Countryside Class was able to expand to two classrooms, one of which also houses a small library. Currently, the library maintains over 500 books in Khmer, English, and French, which the students are able to check out and take back home. Once a week, the school runs a Story Telling Corner to instill a love of reading amongst the youth.
With three teachers, supported by Avenir Pour l'Enfance, we run four hour-long classes a day from Monday through Friday. Our students range in age from 5 to 18 years old, and they are studying at 4 different ability levels. Many of the students also choose to participate in our performing arts classes where they learn traditional Khmer song and dance. During major holidays, they perform at the local pagoda to popular reception among the community.
In the future, with community and outside support, we will move to expand our program to address gaps in our village's education by also teaching Khmer, Mathematics, and Social Science; to increase revenue in the community through tourism by creating a river boat tour and setting up a homestay system; and to improve life skills among village members by using the school as a meeting hall for health and economics organizations to educate the community members.
The underlying value to all our programs is the stringent belief that education is the route to changing Cambodia's future. Within Cambodia, there is a severe lack of human resources and the infrastructure (roads, irrigation systems, health clinics, school buildings, etc) are still in poor condition. The education sector is drastically affected by these challenges. Within Wat Kor Commune school enrollment is depressingly low. In 2010, 16.96% of children ages 6-11 were not enrolled in school (23.46% of females and 8.38% of males).
Our goal is to come together as a village to begin to counter these challenges, starting with education, educating primarily the youth but also, through them, the wider community. We've already seen many positive changes as the influence of our program is growing within the community, and we're excited for growing that impact through implementing our development plan.