Nita's Supplementary Education
Community Education in Cambodia during COVID-19
In the rural countryside, small villages are scattered across Ek Phonm district of Battambang. In the middle of these villages you can find three very different buildings; a traditional wooden Khmer house standing high amongst the trees, a field of tin buildings and a large open plan temple building with no walls sitting under the gaze of a giant Buddah statue. These buildings may not seem special at first, but they are all Supplementary Education Centres offering free education for students from low income families in the region.
FutureSense Foundation runs the Supplementary Education Program offered in these centres in partnership with a local Cambodian NGO. The aim of the program is to ensure that all children in the communities get an equal opportunity to learn, regardless of their background.
In a country where only half a day of school is provided by the government, access to supplementary education can have a huge influence on the opportunities afforded to a person later in life.
When COVID-19 started to spread throughout South East Asia in March, Cambodia was quick to respond, placing restrictions on social and religious gatherings, cancelling festivals and closing down all educational institutions. Unfortunately, these closures affected 466 students who rely on the supplementary education offered by FutureSense Foundation as also these centres had to close temporarily.
Nita is one of these students.
She is 9 years old and studies in grade 2 at primary school. She attends the free Supplementary Education Program as her family does not have enough income to pay for private education. Nita currently lives in the village together with her grandmother while her parents are in Thailand, seeking economic opportunities as construction workers to support the family. Nita’s grandmother works with weaving mattresses, which can earn her up to 20,000 riel (USD $5.00) per day, which she uses to buy food for the family. COVID-19 did not only closed down Nita’s school and her access to supplementary education but it also stopped her parent’s ability to work. With no work, they had to stop sending money back to their family in Cambodia.
When a team member from the Supplementary Education Program interviewed Nita’s grandmother she told us she was worried about Nita’s education and the family’s ability to support her and the other children in the family. Usually Nita can attend both her government school classes and the supplementary education classes, but the closures have complicated things.
To support students and families during the government enforced closures FutureSense Foundation worked with our local partner to set up village-based classes across 5 villages in the Ek Phnom district to ensure students could continue learning. To protect the health and safety of students during CoVid-19, groups were limited to 5-7 students per session. The classes were delivered in the open areas of the village, on large mats to ensure social distancing or in smaller groups at tables in the outdoor areas of community members’ houses. These classes have allowed us to support the students in their learning while also keeping an eye on the wellbeing of the students and their families. Ensuring we could stay in close contact with the students and their families throughout these difficult times.
Nita attends the village-based supplementary classes every morning, sitting with her classmates and listening attentively to her teachers. She has to walk 1km to and from the class but is happy to do it. Nita’s grandma tells us that Nita believes that if she has a strong commitment to her studies and tries her best to learn she can change the living situation for her family in the future. According to Nita, knowledge can change your life, and this belief shows in her commitment to attend the Supplementary Education Program.
“I will come the village class every day!”
After class Nita goes back home to help her grandmother with the cooking, housework and caring for her younger siblings. Despite having to share and juggle responsibilities, Nita and her grandmother are happy that Nita can attend the village-based supplementary education classes. Nita’s grandmother feels the lessons are supporting Nita by improving her knowledge and opportunities in life.