"Know more about MDGs" Vol. 2
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Mariano Schoo in Kompong Luong Floating Village, Cambodia
By Mr. Masaya Takahashi (Yonezawa Church, Niigata Diocese)
Tonle Sap Lake situated at the center of Cambodia is one of the biggest lakes in South East Asia. Kampong Luong There is Floating Village on the lake and the village people live in the boats. About seventy percent of the residents are the immigrants from Vietnam. As most of the children cannot speak Khmer (Cambodian Language), they cannot enter the primary school.
They help their parents' fishing since young in the closed Vietnamese community and do not have contact with Cambodian society.
Under the situation we, JLMM missionaries, help Mariano School run by a local Catholic church. Written Khmer is taught to Vietnamese children there and we work on to let those who have completed Mariano School enter Cambodian public primary school. We draw the children's potential so that they can be given more choices for their future and mix with Cambodian society.
I am often asked, "What does Cambodia need the most?" I answer, "Education is the most important." This is my true feeling through my five years' stay here.
Two million people died during Pol Pot era (1975-1978) in Cambodia. In the country of ultra communism intelligentsias, engineers and cultural figures were the targets of the purge and many of them were executed. It became a big barrier for Cambodia to rebuild the country after the civil war. Leaders on every area disappeared. Junior cannot be cultivated without leaders. Human resource is tremendously lacking to rebuild Cambodia. Then, what is the current situation like?
Cambodia is being rebuilt with the support from Japan and other countries. Economy develops remarkably and the recent real economic growth rate is 10% each year. I can feel it when I go to Phnom Penh. There are more luxury cars than before and high-rise buildings are under construction everywhere. As I am "a countryman", I am excited saying, "Wow! Oh, KFC was opened there!" But when I am in the village the life still remains as I started five years ago. Why is that so? Only cities are being developed.
However, it is difficult to promote educations in Cambodia. The attendance rate at primary school is 94%, but completion 59%. Only34% of those who have completed primary school go to secondary school. (Research by Japan Embassy in Cambodia) The figures are average of whole Cambodia and there is a considerable gap between cities and countryside. The statistic does not include Vietnamese children without Cambodian citizenship in the floating village. According to the principal of the public primary school in the floating village, only three children out of ten inclusive of Vietnamese go to primary school. It means that the attendance rate at primary school is 30% but I do not believe it. I guess the rate is lower than it.
Our activities with Mariano School contribute the government's promotion of the primary education, which means that we take part in rebuilding of the country. I, and probably the teachers, believe that our pupils will create the bright future of Cambodia.
Ms. Rekana, the teacher in charge of the class for younger children, does the housework, looks after her two children, manages her home for her husband who is away from home for fishing most of time and works hard to support her family. In fact it would be easier and profitable for her to work fish processing at home. However, she dares to work in our school as a teacher at the salary which is not sufficient for her. I think it is because she loves children. As she is Vietnamese living in the floating village, she understands the home environment and the living standard of the village children very well. She is the only one who can draw the true feelings from the children in Vietnamese. She is empathetic and takes a good care of the children.
Ms. Roatta, the teacher in charge of higher grades, is Cambodian living on the land. Our church has problems in the relationship among church people and they often get bothered with political friction. Sometimes our teachers also face troubles which have nothing to do with teaching pupils and they loose their interest in the church. Some of them quite the church and some are got out of the church. Ms. Roatta also became a target of mental abuse at the beginning and was treated bad. She got hurt and decided to quite the school. When she received a surprise, her likeness drawn by the children, on her last day in the school, she said crying, "I want to stay here. There won't be teacher here if I quite and it's no good for the children. After all I love children!" I was happy for that and cried together.
Two years have passed since then. Now she prepares for the class carefully and teaches Khmer to the children attentively. Even when there are large waves and she gets seasick or it rains heavily during the rainy season, she goes to school from her house on the land. This is her forth year being a teacher and no body talks bad about her now. She was accepted by the exclusive people from the church. She loves children so much that she has been making efforts. The children love her, too.
The assistant teacher Ms. Tuan and I, the principal, discuss how to improve Mariano School. We visit houses of all the children who have been absent from school for many days. We talk to the children's parents and ask the children to come back to school. Though we want the children to study, in some cases their families are so poor that they have to get their children work during the fishing season. When a child finally dropps out of school, we feel sorry for that. I often say to the teachers, "Don't give up any child." We do not allow a child to leave school easily as our Mariano School may be the only place for the child to study in his/her life. We will not forget about the child as he/she may come back in a few years time. We continue to operate the literacy education with hope and dream of the day when all the village children can go to school.