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PLF Computer Lab Expansion

11 June 2011

This year the PLF has 103 urban high school students on our rosters, all graduates from Wat Bo Primary School in Siem Reap. Some of these students are now in the 11th grade and have been asking us  for computer classes. It costs anywhere from $15-30 per month to send a student to Computer Classes in Siem Reap, so we decided to address this challenge by building our own lab.

Update: follow the class on their new Facebook page.

Many of our urban secondary school students are orphans, living in pagodas and shelters around town.  Others are living on the streets with their families in Siem Reap. We have sent some of these students to English classes in town, some of them to computer classes, but having students enrolled in private classes all over town is both expensive and not necessarily effective as we cannot monitor their attendance or performance.

Ponheary chatting with PLF students at Angkor High School in Siem Reap

Sothera (Srei) Ly

The first challenge was finding a knowledgeable teacher. Immediately to the surface came Ponheary’s younger sister, Sothera Ly (Srei). Srei has been deaf since the age of 14 and as such, never returned to school after the Khmer Rouge era.  Her disability kept her from what ever opportunities existed in Cambodia during the Occupation so her life has been spent cooking and cleaning for the other members of the family who could go to school and/or work. This “cinderella life” didn’t keep Srei from educating herself however, and over the course of her adult life she has taught herself 4 foreign languages including English and French.  Imagine learning a foreign language when you’ve never heard it spoken!

About 3 years ago Srei started taking computer classes in Siem Reap and found herself with an amazing aptitude for it.  When we decided to set up the lab, Srei came into focus as the perfect teacher.

Srei with her first students.

We started small, with only 3 computers and Srei had two classes per day with only 3 students in each one. She used these early classes as a testbed to develop her curriculum and set down the necessary criteria for  students who wished to join the class. These first classes were well-attended and very useful to the students. Everything seemed like it was falling into place so we moved forward with the expansion.

Srei's expanded lab in it's new location.

In March, we were able to purchase the rest of the 12 computers necessary and move the full lab down the hall to it’s own classroom. Now that classes are fully operational at the lab, Srei is teaching 4 classes per day with 12 students in each class. She has recently added a 4 hour class on Sundays for our teachers living in the rural communities, specifically the teachers at Knar, where we hope to install a computer lab next year. Internet and printing services are available in Srei’s lab,  so that the students and teachers can learn to use email, search the web and of course, set up Facebook accounts!

Srei in class

The PLF is paying Srei $250 per month to teach all these classes and we’ve never met anyone as proud as she is about the progress of her students. Among her students are a few who are physically disabled. (Some may remember Yim Mao) Having such an articulate and knowledgeable teacher who is also deaf is a great inspiration, not only to her students but to all of us who stand back and watch her teach!

In addition to the satisfaction of being able to employ such a great teacher, we calculate that we are saving a considerable amount on tuition for all these students and making sure they are being taught in a safe and supportive environment.

If you’d like to support Srei’s Computer Classes, our monthly expenses in the lab are about $300 per month.

Big Big Thanks to Krista Riddell and Mike Molson from Canada who helped us get this project off the ground.

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