HISTORY OF THE KHEMARA KIDSHELP SCHOOL
The English School was established in 2010 in Prek Dambang. The village, which is situated about 40 kilometres away from Phnom Penh, had offered itself as a new location because there were too few schools and many poor families living there.
Khemara was appointed headmistress of the school after the initial director left in 2013. She had studied English and had shown much courage and commitment during her time as a teacher at the school.
Today more than 400 students attend the English school in Lor Oet, a village within the commune of Prek Dambang. A Cambodian Commune is a medium-sized administrative unit consisting of 3 – 30 villages[i].
The majority of the pupils at KKS come from Lor Oet although children from surrounding villages also attend the school. There are a total of 10 learning levels, arranged according to level of knowledge (not age) of the students. There are currently 12 classes because some levels have more children than we can accommodate in a single classroom. The oversubscribed levels are therefore divided into multiple classes. In addition, some levels are offered in both the afternoon and the evening because children attending state school grade 7 and above, must attend afternoon lessons and can therefore only come to the KKS in the evening.
It makes sense to divide the classes according to their knowledge level because there are often children and young adults who start learning at the same time, so there can be big age ranges. The school currently employs 11 teachers who depending on availability are supported by up to 2 volunteers (see below).
Two additional classrooms were erected on the schoolyard in 2012 bringing total classrooms available to ten. On the ground floor there is a school library to which pupils have unrestricted access. The books are arranged according to level of difficulty and there is a lending system so that all pupils have the opportunity to take books home with them. In addition, all books can of course also be used by the teachers during class.
In 2019 a new series of textbooks was introduced for the lower levels. This was enabled through a sponsor donation. The teachers and volunteers had asked to exchange the previously used “Up and Away” series with the “Family & Friends” series. The new series was familiar to many of the teachers from lessons at other state and private schools. In addition, the series came with additional materials that enabled teachers to create course plans and apply more varied methods. Teachers as well as students are especially happy about the audio files that are included with all courses and can be used flexibly in the classes thanks to the mobile Bluetooth speakers, we provided them with.
In the higher classes, we continue to rely on the “New Headway” series, which is widely used in Cambodia. This series of textbooks is also used in state high schools and many of the expensive private schools in Phnom Penh. Both the New Headway and the Family and Friends series work with “workbooks” and we offer children the opportunity to buy these books at a reduced rate at the beginning of the school year. Kidshelp covers the rest of the cost using money from individual donations and the contributions of our members. Click here to find out how you can donate or become a member.
Cambodia’s education system is only slowly recovering from many years of civil war and poverty in Cambodia and this makes it difficult to build good schools. The state-run teacher training is improving steadily but far from being excellent and this is especially true in the countryside where educators struggle with problems like extremely large classes and bad teaching materials.
Good teachers often go to the cities because of higher wages and the hope for a higher standard of living. For these reasons, we provide our teachers with opportunities to improve their own skillset. This is done through regular training sessions conducted by our deputy headmaster Tharith, who has experience as a teacher at private schools in Phnom Penh, or by our volunteers, who often have several years of experience teaching in their home countries.
The English school also offers classes that are not always directly related to foreign language teaching, depending on the skills of our current staff. For example, during the visit of a dental technician, both teachers and students were able to learn many important things about dental hygiene. Instead of specifying the number or content of training courses and additional teaching units, we prefer to look at the skills of our staff and visitors, work out a concept and then ask the teachers whether they are interested in such a training. We think that further training and additional teaching units only make sense if the people for whom we conduct them express an interest and recognise their value.
In addition, we try to give highly motivated and talented teachers access to external education. Through the additional training opportunities, we not only want to improve their skills but also aim to provide positive incentives to give their best and to retain teachers at our school.
In 2019, thanks to a donation from the Living Responsibility Fund of Deutsche Post DHL, we were able to enable all interested teachers to attend TESOL[ii] courses at the Educational Development Institute (EDI) in Phnom Penh.
In addition, we have given several teachers the opportunity to continue their studies at university in Phnom Penh during the weekends. In return, they committed to work at our school for several years and thus contribute to the long-term improvement of the quality of teaching at KKS.
We fund all of these measures through single donations and your membership fees. On behalf of all teachers we would like to thank you for your support.
Kidshelp Kambodscha e.V. has been working with long term volunteers for some years now. Over the year’s volunteers have been able to initiate many processes that have led to lasting improvements at the school as well as within the project for university students. Many students have, through regular contact with our volunteers, found the courage to speak English freely inside and outside of the classroom.
Many volunteers join us after they have finished their own studies and can put into practice and share with our Cambodian teachers, experiences they have gained during previous internships, practical semesters and private tutoring job. When choosing new volunteers, we look for candidates who have already gained experience in teaching and/or working with children. In addition, we make sure that they have a good command of English. It is also to their advantage if they have additional qualifications that they can bring to the English school in the form of skills that would enable them to hold additional classes such as teaching music, arts, handicrafts or sports.
In recent years, we have had more and more volunteers who had already completed their teacher training and brought several years of professional experience. High school graduates, who worked as volunteers, have usually had previous experience from teaching in sports clubs as private tutors or internships. We have also started hosting so-called “Granny Au Pairs” from a Hamburg based organisation of the same name. These volunteers are 55 years and older who want to get to know new cultures and people during longer stays abroad. At the same time, they want to do something good and share their knowledge with the local staff. Through this program we have already welcomed several retired teachers for our school.
All these volunteers bring different and important aspects to our work and have contributed to the improved quality of teaching at KKS.
Apart from the positive influence on our Cambodian teachers, the volunteers themselves learn a lot from their stays. They develop a better intercultural understanding, learn to become more flexible and often acquire completely new skills.
We can accommodate up to two volunteers at the school at any one time. If you are interested in volunteering, you will find all the necessary information on these pages.
STIpends / SPONSORs OF THE ENGLISH SCHOOL
Until the end of 2018 Khemara charged a monthly fee for attending school of US$ 4 per child. The fees were to cover the core running costs of the school. The fees enabled her to pay the teacher salaries, electricity, water, teaching materials, repairs, etc. Kidshelp pays for the volunteers’ meals and the maintenance and cleaning of their rooms. In addition, we would normally pay 50% of the costs for repairs and organize donation drives for special purchases e.g. new books. We have adopted the principle; the school should be able to function independently if Kidshelp were to withdraw support in the longer term. A financing model that allows KKS to operate independent of our payments is therefore important.
Until the end of 2018, we were able to exempt about a quarter of students from poor families from the US$ 4 school fees through a scholarship program – financed by numerous donors from Germany. However, following a decision by the local authorities, private schools in the entire commune of Prek Dambang have been prohibited from charging fees after the end of 2018. Instead, the local authorities pay a flat rate of US$ 2.50 per child. At that time, we wrote to the donors of the scholarships, informed them about the changed situation and asked whether they would like to become “sponsors of the English school”. We explained this meant they would continue to transfer the amount they had paid for scholarships to us and we would use the money to increase the monthly amount we had available per student to approximately US$ 3.50 per child. This plan was approved by almost all donors meaning the operation of the school is relatively secure for now.
We do have a concern that the local administration may change the rules again at some point and will stop paying the US$ 2.50 per child. Should this happen, we will inform all “supporters of the English School” and convert their monthly donations back into scholarships. Because the fees had been US$ 4 before the local authorities announced the new regulations, the minimum fee to become a “Sponsor of the English School” is currently € 4[iii]. If you choose to become a sponsor, you can of course choose to pay a higher amount each month (freely selectable).
Should the local administration stop paying US$ 2.50 per child, we would again start giving out scholarships for children from the poorest families. If the cost has not substantially increased by then, we would again estimate a sponsorship per child of US$ 4 per month. If someone pays € 8 per month, we would then translate this into two scholarships. If the exchange of € into US$ should result in profits, these funds would be allocated for general use by the English school e.g. repairs of the school.
If you would like to become a sponsor of the English school, you can find an application by clicking on the following link to make payment to Kidshelp Kambodscha in Germany or link to make payment to Kidshelp Cambodia – England.
[ii] TESOL = teaching English to speakers of other languages
[iii] Our fees are listed in Euro since our main office is located in Germany. If we generate any surpluses from exchanging other currencies into US Doller, these will be reinvested for statutory purposes.