As part of our aid work in Baray District, Kampong Thom in Cambodia, we helped to paint a run-down school. It was a small building in the middle of nowhere with a well at the side for water. The level of education was primary 1 and 2. The yellow plastic bags in the photo consisted of a toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste, a hair comb and a razor blade. I was skeptical about giving razor blades to children, but apparently it had happened before.
School was not available for everyone though, children had to compete for a place at school. I am not sure how it worked, but often parents will work their buttocks off just to send their children to school. However, if they are unable to, the children are required (implicitly) to work with their parents.
The children looked at us with awe as we attempted to explain how to use the gifts they got. They are gifts because they often can’t afford to buy such items. After which we came to a hiccup when attempting to teach them how to wash their hands properly…
We are used to water being dispensed from taps, so bringing them a ‘how-to wash your hands in 7 steps’ poster, posed an awkward problem. And yes, there are 7 steps when washing your hands thoroughly. The awkward problem was that we had no idea how to properly teach the children how to was their hands from a bucket. At least not from the poster anyway. Locals mainly got their water from wells and stored them in buckets or storage containers. Thus we got stuck when teaching them, it turns out it may ultimately become a 2 person job, one to pour the water on the hands of the person washing theirs. Fortunately, soaping techniques are the same!
A dual classroom.
Another interesting thing about this particular school we visited was that both Primary 1 and 2 were in the same room! The chalkboard in the picture above was for primary 1 and there was another chalkboard directly opposite the classroom for primary 2. To top it off, the primary 1 teacher, primary 2 teacher and the school principle were all the same person! Talk about a multi-tasking role. This was the situation in Baray district. Perhaps it may be sad, but thats only in relative comparison. Beyond that, at least there is education in the region.