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NFO operates and administers a chain of schools in the rural villages surrounding Takeo town. The area around Takeo is overwhelmingly an agricultural region and the villages are quite remote. Often quite poor villages are scattered among the rice fields down dirt tracks which are difficult to access, especially during the rainy season. NFO works with Project Little Dream to plan and build the village schools and we have recently opened our seventh rural school with work ongoing to expand the project further into other villages.
Why is there a need for rural schools?
Many of the children who live in these villages are unable to attend regular school. Although education in Cambodia is free, it is compulsory for parents to buy uniform and books, which are often beyond the financial means of rural farming families. In addition, the main schools for the area are located in Takeo town, which is several miles away from the children's home villages, down unpaved dirt roads which can become virtually impassable during the rainy season. A combination of necessity and local custom often dictates that children of all ages are required to help out on the family farm, sowing and harvesting rice or looking after livestock. Again, this prevents them from attending regular school classes.
What does the Village schools project provide?
Our teachers are funded through our sponsors Camkids - often public school teachers or education students from local universities - to go out into the communities where access to education is limited, and provide lessons to children and young people there. The lessons are held in private premises in the village, a number of which are built with the assistance of Project Little Dream. Following discussions with parents and village leaders, classes are scheduled for times which are suitable for the children to attend. These classes are often at lunchtime, late afternoon or in the evening, when the agricultural work is finished. A typical rural school has anything from 70 to 150 students enrolled; attending whichever class is most convenient for them. NFO provides exercise books and pencils, and uniforms are not required. In addition to the regular Khmer teachers, NFO volunteers visit the schools to provide students with the opportunity to listen to and talk with a native English speaker, which helps to develop both their pronunciation skills and their cultural awareness.
What are the rural schools like?
The schools locations vary from village to village, at one school, classes are held in a fisherman's hut overlooking a lake; others take place in village community buildings, pagodas or private houses. NFO's largest school, in the village of Little Po, is now housed in a purpose-built classroom constructed by Project Little Dream. This building replaced their old 'classroom' - the cow shed beneath the teacher's house! Our supporters and donors have also helped us to construct new classroom buildings in two other villages, with further school-building projects planned for the coming years.
The common theme which unites all the schools is the eagerness of the children to learn. Every class is packed with young people, carefully repeating and noting down the day's lesson taught by a committed and motivated teacher. The rural schools project has so far proven a great success and is bringing education to children who would otherwise miss out on the opportunity.
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