The latest from Cambodia – August 2020!

Written by our Cambodia Team.

August Program Highlights.

Throughout August we have been busy working with our partner organisation Children’s Action for Development to deliver classes to students across 6 villages.

This month we delivered regular lessons to a total of 254 students. The majority of these children were previously attending our supplementary education centres prior to Covid-19 imposed closures, however we are also seeing a small amount of children coming from the villages where we hold lessons who are not usually a part of the program.

We are also very happy to report that there has been an increase in attendance of 14 students since July! Breakdown of students according to the villages surrounding their corresponding supplementary centre:

  • CAD1 = 88
  • CAD2= 72
  • CAD3= 94
While there has been some discussion of schools beginning to open in the coming months it is unclear exactly when the centres will be allowed to reopen, making these lessons crucial to ensure that the most vulnerable students do not fall behind.

Government School Partnership Updates.

Our community coordinator Phearom has been busy meeting with our government school partners to understand the challenges they are facing with remote learning.

We received very similar feedback across all 3 partner schools around the challenges of student learning while schools are closed. Overall the feeling was that all involved (teachers, students, families) are experiencing huge challenges in remote learning. There is also concern across schools about how far behind students are falling. These meetings also further highlighted the impact of inequalities in access and support for students.

School 1: High School

  • Less than 50% of students are engaging in online classes.
  • Main issues include poor phone service in the villages, financial burdens and a lack of access to technology. Many students are also working with their parents on their farms.
  • There will be extra classes on offer for grade 9 &12 prior to their examinations.
  • The director is incredibly concerned about student’s ability to catch up in classes 7&8, 10&11 as they do not have examinations and therefore will not have any additional supplementary classes.
School 2: Primary School
  • Reports from the school Director indicate that e-learning is not going well and that he does not feel that they are able to support students effectively.
  • Only 6 students are engaging with their teachers regularly over fb chat (preferred contact method being used by the school)
  • There is particular concern for the youngest children in grades 1-3 as it is incredibly difficult to engage them in remote learning and they require a lot of support from parents, who don’t seem to have much time to help their children with school work.
School 3: Primary School
  • Staff feel that E-learning is “not very effective” and that many students are not interested in learning online.
  • According to their observation, the main challenges are related to access. In some areas the internet is too slow and some students don’t have access to a smart phone. 
  • Students are also going to work with their parents at the farm, taking time away from their studies.
  • Teachers are also making home visits where possible in cases where students live close to the school, however some students also live very far away making it difficult for teachers to visit them in their homes to give homework.
  • For the children who do not live near to the school they are able to visit the school to collect homework and speak with the teacher, however many children are not able to do this as it required their parents to bring them and they are busy or unable.
  • The total number of students in the school is 475, however only 299 students are engaged and 170 students are not engaging.

Health Partner Meetings.

With official case numbers remaining low, the Cambodia team took the time this month to meet with two of our health partners to better understand the reality on the ground.

From our meeting with the Provincial Hospital administrator we learnt more about the availability of Covid-19 testing including barriers to access and costs. We also spoke about the process of conducting a test and what patients will experience if they test positive. The hospital has special facilities for patients who are presenting with Covid-19 symptoms and is responsible for treating patients who test positive. While they can conduct the sample collection for testing, the hospital does not have a lab to process the results of the tests so samples must be sent to Phnom Penh for processing.

We also met with the Director of the district health centre which serves the communities where we work to discuss the preventative measures they are involved with.

While Health Centres do not have the facilities or resources to treat patients for Coronavirus, they have set up a seperate area where health official staff are waiting to provide information about the virus and interview patients who would like to be tested. Patients who are found to be presenting with relevant symptoms as advised by the Ministry of Health (MoH) are then sent to the provincial hospital for testing and treatment.

We also enquired about their preparedness for a covid-19 outbreak should it occur and found that at both the provincial and district level there is no plan in place other than to take direction from the MoH if the virus spreads across Cambodia.

Sustainability Update.

In line with our commitment to reduce plastic use the Cambodia hub has transitioned from plastic bin bags to biodegradable bags that are made from cassava. The bags are just as strong as the thick plastic bags that we were previously purchasing but they will take only six years to breakdown in landfill opposed to the 20+ years that plastic bags take. They are also much better for the environment when they do break down as they are made from organic materials and will not leak nasty chemicals into the ground! While the impact is small at the moment as we only have a few bins in operation for staff, this will make a huge difference when volunteers return as we will be able to use them across the two bins in each room of the hub. As a bonus, we can purchase a roll of 100 cassava bags for only USD$3.50, or 0.035 per bag, making them cheaper than plastic bags which cost USD$5 for 40 bags or 0.125 per bag!

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