Thursday, July 07, 2011

Service-Learning at Emmanuel School

Emmanuel Christian School is a primary school set up by a HK NGO.  Primary education in Cambodian government schools is free.  However, the teachers are paid such low salaries (less than 100 USD a month) that they collect various fees from the students to supplement their income.  Many students cannot attend government schools because they cannot afford to pay those fees. 

Emmanuel was set up to give these poor students a chance for an education.  The school building was an old leather factory given by the government.  Not only does the school not collect any fees, it even provides the students with uniforms.   Even then, many of the students cannot afford shoes. 

Besides the Khmer teachers, they have a Chinese from Hebei teaching Putonghua, and 2 Kenyans teaching English.  Besides the prohibitively expensive international schools, there are probably not too many schools that can provide this level of teaching.  What motivated the people who set up the school?  The love of God, of course. 

Our students are teaching digital photography, shooting and editing videos, collecting and writing stories.  Many of the students have never seen digital cameras and computers before.  Naturally they are very curious and eager to learn.  By the end of the first day, some of the kids have already become so attached to us that they were reluctant to go home. 

Each of the 6 grades is supposed to have about 20 students.  We notice that the higher the grade, the smaller is the number of students in the class.  The class list for primary 5 has 14 students, but there was only 6 in the class.  There were only 3 in primary 6.   It turned out that as the children get older,
their parents want them to stop attending classes in order to go to work. 

Outside the school there is a fairly well-equipped playground built by the government.  On closer look,  however, it is strewn with garbage, as is elsewhere in the village.   Few children play in the playground, besides a flock of scrawny chicken.  There is this young boy, however, who was carrying a baby.  Probably one of those skipping classes to work?

On Wednesday, the school was flooded because of heavy rains the previous evening.  My students have to wade through dirty flood water several inches deep to get to the dryer classrooms.  I happened to have gone to New Life Fellowship, and missed it.  But I am proud of my students who insisted on carrying out the work despite the flooding.   And I would love to have been there with them. 

Such is the state of the poor in Cambodia.  And practically all of it man-made.  Why do man insist of making each other so miserable? 


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